Battery Made of Seeds and Pine Resin

By MarEx 2014-09-30 18:33:00

Today's lithium batteries are efficient, but suffer from a range of resource and environmental problems. Using material from alfalfa and pine resin and a smart recovery strategy Uppsala researchers can now present a very interesting option. 

“We believe that our discovery could open more doors to more environmentally friendly and energy-efficient solutions for the future of batteries,” said Daniel Brandell, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry, Uppsala University, and one of the researchers behind the idea. 

Lithium-ion is, because of its high energy content, very promising for various products in the future energy system, especially for electric vehicles or large-scale energy storage in the power grid. Today's lithium batteries, however, are marred by a number of resource and environmental problems. For example, the commercially mineable lithium resources in the world are limited, and it is unclear whether they can meet future needs. Further, it is very difficult to recover lithium from the inorganic materials existing batteries composed. 

In the current study, researchers at the Ångström Laboratory, Uppsala University, developed a completely new battery concept. The battery is based on recycling and renewable biological materials, with the same energy content as today's lithium ion batteries. It has components made from renewable organic biomaterials from alfalfa and pine resin, and can be recovered with low energy consumption and harmless chemicals such as ethanol and water. 

It is not the first time batteries with renewable materials have been presented, but the recycling strategy is a completely new concept. The researchers show that the lithium extracted from a depleted battery could be used in a new battery, which only needs more biomaterials added. The battery is then able to deliver 99 percent of the amount of energy as the first. With future modifications is most likely that this figure may be even higher, say the researchers. 

“By using organic materials from renewable sources, several of the problems are solved that would occur with a very large increase in the use of lithium batteries. But above all it is a significant step forward that lithium can be recovered easily and environmentally from these batteries. The solutions are also potentially very cost-effective,” says Brandell. 

The research team also includes Professor Kristina Edström, leading battery research at Uppsala University, and researcher Steven Renault. 

Photo credit: Daniel Brandell