Lithium-ion batteries have allowed us to make some pretty impressive advancements in energy storage.They're not the most environmentally sustainable option, as they still lose capacity and degrade over time, and there is a slight risk of them exploding, but generally speaking, they've been the best option for our needs.
Until now. Maybe.
In a recent article in the journal Matter, a team of scientists at the University of Maryland and University of Houston explained how they created a stable and sustainable alternative using zinc ions derived from, of all things, crab shells.
As The Daily Beast explains:
Zinc-based batteries have yet to be commercialized because of a well-known problem: Zinc ions will crash out of the water-based solution in the battery and form protrusions called dendrites that over time cause the battery to short. Existing solutions to prevent dendrites from forming end up reducing the battery's performance. Hu and his team decided to test out whether chitosan, an abundant compound that comes from the exoskeletons of crustaceans, could stabilize the zinc without massively impeding the battery.
They designed a porous structure of chitosan and zinc, which outperformed existing zinc batteries and remained nearly 100 percent efficient after hundreds of charging cycles. Then, the team buried the structures in soil. After two months, there were clear signs of the zinc and chitosan decomposing, and the structure fully decomposed after five months.
No wonder we all become crabs in the end. They truly are nature's greatest achievement.
The Future of Renewable Energy May Be This Battery Made From Crab Shells [Maddie Bender / The Daily Beast]
A sustainable chitosan-zinc electrolyte for high-rate zinc-metal batteries [Meiling Wu, Ye Zhang, Lin Xu, Chunpeng Yang, Min Hong, Mingjin Cui, Bryson C. Clifford, Shuaiming He, Shuangshuang Jing, Yan Yao, and Liangbing Hu / Matter]
Image: Public Domain via Pixahive