According to a press statement distributed by EurekAlert on Thursday, scientists from the University of Maryland’s Center for Materials Innovation have created a novel zinc battery using an electrolyte taken from a crab shell.
Chitosan, a chemically derived form of chitin that is widely distributed in crab shells, is used to make the electrolyte. Chitosan is a biodegradable material, therefore two-thirds of the battery will naturally break down without producing any dangerous byproducts.
The study found that the battery had an energy efficiency of 99.7% after 1000 battery cycles, making it a practical choice for storing wind and solar energy for transmission to power networks.
a sustainable substitute
Lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) are frequently utilized as energy storage devices because of their greater energy density and cycle stability. According to projections, the market for LIBs will increase from $30 billion in 2017 to $100 billion in 2025.
However, this growth has a negative impact on the environment. According to professor Liangbing Hu of the University of Maryland, who is also the study’s principal author, “vast quantities of batteries are being created and consumed, raising the likelihood of environmental hazards.”
For instance, polypropylene and polycarbonate separators, which are frequently found in lithium-ion batteries, can take hundreds or even thousands of years to break down and are therefore a burden on the environment.
The most prevalent polymer in nature, chitin, serves as the source of chitosan. It can be found in the outer shells of crustaceans including crabs, shrimp, and lobsters as well as in the exoskeletons of insects and fungi. Because they are currently discarded as culinary waste, crab shells are an easily accessible supply.
Crustacean waste is a low-cost, renewable source of chitosan, with the food sector producing six to eight million metric tons of crab, shrimp, and lobster shell waste annually.
In the study, chitosan was employed as a gel electrolyte to create more ecologically friendly and long-lasting batteries.
The material that enables ion transfer between a cell’s positive and negative terminals is an electrolyte. Many batteries use highly flammable or corrosive substances as their electrolyte, which might be a liquid, paste, or gel.
Chitosan is naturally degraded by microorganisms, thus when a battery reaches the end of its useful life, it can simply be buried in the ground, where it will degrade within five months. Only zinc, which can be recycled, is left behind.
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Finding raw minerals, especially lithium and cobalt, is difficult with LIBs. Due to the rarity of these basic minerals, there is a very real chance that there may be widespread shortages.
Because zinc is a more plentiful raw material than lithium, zinc-based batteries may be more affordable, less damaging to the environment, and less prone to supply-chain problems.
Hu and his group intend to keep trying to make batteries, including the manufacturing process, even more environmentally friendly.
Hu expressed his hope that all battery components would eventually be biodegradable. “Not just the substance itself, but also the biomaterials manufacturing process.”
Crab shell-based batteries are probably not going to power our gadgets any time soon, but as technology advances, that could change.
Finding clean, secure, and sustainable alternatives is essential for the Earth’s low-carbon future.
The Research Corporation for Science Advancement, Facebook Reality Labs Research, University of Maryland A. James Clark School of Engineering, Maryland Nanocenter, and AIMLab all provided funding for this study.