German researchers have developed a new carbon-based active material that can be manufactured from apple leftovers and used to build better energy storage systems.
The apple-based material can be used as the negative electrode in sodium-ion batteries, which are currently being researched as a more environmentally friendly and cheaper alternative to lithium-ion batteries.
Instead of energy-intensive lithium mining, which frequently damages the environment, battery manufacturers in future could be using organic waste to make batteries.
In tests, the new material discovered by researchers from the Helmholtz Institute Ulm of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, has demonstrated ‘excellent electrochemical properties’, allowing the researchers to carry out 1000 charge and discharge cycles during which the apple-based battery demonstrated high stability as well as capacity.
Sodium-ion batteries are promising for several reasons. Not only are sodium salts much cheaper and more abundant than the currently popular lithium, the sodium-ion batteries also offer better properties than other alternatives – nickel metal hydride and lead accumulators.
The team has also developed a new material for positive electrodes that consists of several layers of sodium oxides. This active material offers the same efficiency, cyclic stability, capacity, and voltage as conventional cobalt-based positive electrodes of commercial lithium ion batteries. Unlike cobalt, which is not only expensive but also potentially toxic, the new material is perfectly harmless.
The researchers said the new material could pave the way for more sustainable and environmentally friendly energy storage systems and could be used especially in stationary sodium-ion batteries that will likely play a central role in the transformation of the energy system.