Researchers Use Plant Extract to Make Eco-Friendly Batteries

These green-oriented batteries might soon replace lithium-ion ones, specialists say

By on December 12th, 2012 09:22 GMT

A team of scientists working with The City College of New York, the Rice University and the US Army Research Laboratory now claims that the lithium-ion batteries used to power almost all gadgets, appliances and EVs might someday be successfully replaced by batteries made using a plant extract as raw material.

The green-oriented batteries developed by these researchers are manufactured with the help of purpurin, which is basically a natural red dye most commonly found in the madder plant.

Specialists explain that both purpurin and its fellow natural dyes are color molecules whose behavior is strikingly similar to that of run-of-the-mill battery electrodes.

The official website for The College of New York explains the inner working of the basic purpurin molecule as follows:

“In the case of purpurin, the molecule’s six-membered (aromatic) rings are festooned with carbonyl and hydroxyl groups adept at passing electrons back and forth, just as traditional electrodes do.”

As Professor John explains, “These aromatic systems are electron-rich molecules that easily coordinate with lithium.”

Thanks to the properties that the purpurin molecule displays, battery manufacturers could someday let go of their using mined metal ores like cobalt.

Since the mined metal ores supplies we have at our disposal are finite ones, this comes as good news indeed.

Besides offering an eco-friendly alternative to traditional batteries, meaning that is would eliminate the issue of having to properly dispose of batteries once they are no longer of any use, the madder plant also offers significant benefits in terms of dealing with climate change.

Thus, the researchers who looked into this issue believe that, should the madder plant or other similar biomass sources start being grown in order to make batteries, progress would also be made in terms of ridding the air of carbon dioxide.

“When you can generate something new or unheard of, you think of chemistry in a different way. That a natural material or dye can be used for a battery, that is exciting, even for me,” Professor John said.

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