Researchers use crab shells to create new biodegradable batteries with 99.7% efficiency

Due to their superior energy density and cycle stability, lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) are widely used as energy storage devices. The market for LIBs is projected to grow from US $30 billion in 2017 to $100 billion in 2025.

But this increase comes with an environmental cost. “Vast quantities of batteries are being produced and consumed, raising the possibility of environmental problems,” said professor Liangbing Hu from the University of Maryland, the study’s lead author.

“For example, polypropylene and polycarbonate separators, which are widely used in Lithium-ion batteries, take hundreds or thousands of years to degrade and add to environmental burden.”

Chitosan is derived from Chitin, the most abundant polymer in nature. It’s found in crustaceans’ outer shells, including crabs, shrimps, lobsters, insect exoskeletons, and fungal cell walls. Crab shells are a readily available source because they’re currently thrown away as food waste.

Every year, the food industry generates six to eight million metric tons of crab, shrimp, and lobster shell waste, making crustacean waste a low-cost, renewable source of chitosan.

In the study, researchers used chitosan as a gel electrolyte to make batteries more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

An electrolyte serves as the medium that allows ion transport between a cell’s positive and negative terminal. Electrolytes can be liquids, paste, or gel, and many batteries use highly combustible or corrosive chemicals as an electrolyte.

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