Researchers make paper-based, eco-friendly batteries

Paper, eco-friendly batteries

Researchers in the US have designed a biodegradable, paper-based battery that is more efficient than previously thought possible. As sustainability becomes goal not only for environmentalists but most governments this eco-friendly battery could be one of the most important breakthroughs.

The UN has already warned about the increasing and dangerous amount of electronic waste being thrown out at the expense of the environment. Batteries are one of the biggest contributors to electronic waste pollution.

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In a paper published to the journal Advanced Sustainable Systems, by Binghamton University in the US, the team said latest battery, uses a hybrid of paper and engineered polymers – key to giving it biodegrading properties.

Despite there having been excitement in the scientific community about the possibility of paper-based batteries as an eco-friendly alternative, proposed designs were never powerful enough for typical use.

On top of that, they were difficult to produce and some even doubted whether they were truly biodegradable.

“There’s been a dramatic increase in electronic waste and this may be an excellent way to start reducing that,” Seokheun Choi one of the researchers were quoted by the Silicon Republic.

“Our hybrid paper battery exhibited a much higher power-to-cost ratio than all previously reported paper-based microbial batteries.”

After putting a prototype design in water, the battery clearly biodegraded without the requirements of special facilities, conditions or introduction of other microorganisms, said the Silicon Republic.

The biobattery uses a hybrid of paper and engineered polymers. The polymers – poly (amic) acid and poly (pyromellitic dianhydride-p-phenylenediamine) – were the key to giving the batteries biodegrading properties.

The polymer-paper structures are lightweight, low-cost and flexible. Choi said that flexibility also provides another benefit.

“Power enhancement can be potentially achieved by simply folding or stacking the hybrid, flexible paper-polymer devices,” Choi said.

The battery itself is a hybrid “biobattery” that uses a mixture of paper and engineered polymers. The polymers are the key to making the battery biodegradable, and mean it can break down in water without any special facilities or chemicals.

In March, a team from the University of Texas at Dallas had unveiled a high-powered, environmentally safer lithium-sulphur battery substitute.

The breakthrough was made after discovering that a metallic element called molybdenum – thinner than the silk of a spider web – creates greater power density, making lithium-sulphur batteries more commercially viable.

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