MIT Scientists Develop Non-Toxic Batteries To Generate Power

Posted: Mar 15 2016, 4:05am CDT | by , Updated: Mar 15 2016, 9:15pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News


MIT Scientists Develop Non-Toxic Batteries to Generate Power
A coating of sucrose (ordinary sugar) over a wire made of carbon nanotubes is heated at the left end, and burns from one end to the other. Credit: MIT

New system could be a better alternate to conventional lithium-ion batteries in the future.

From smartphones to computers to electric cars, every modern-day device is powered by batteries, but there is a huge drawback in using these batteries as a fuel source. 

Most traditional batteries are made up of toxic and harmful materials like lithium which is extremely flammable and difficult to dispose of. 

Now, researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have come up with a new alternate system for generating electricity which is safer and uses toxic free material for producing electrical energy.

The new technology is based on a groundbreaking research made by the same team of MIT researchers back in 2010. Researchers found that when tiny cylinders of carbon are coated with an inflammable material and heated from one end, they can produce electrical current. But researchers were able to produce a very limited amount of current at that time.

MIT researchers kept on refining the process and attempted to produce thousands of times more electrical energy than what is generated in initial experiments. In the latest experiment, researchers were able to achieve 10,000 times greater energy efficiency compared to the original experiment.

The secret lies in the coating. The initial experiments had used explosive materials to generate the pulse of heat for producing energy, but in the new experiment sucrose or ordinary table sugar was used. 

“It’s actually remarkable that this (phenomenon) hasn’t been studied before.” Michael Strano lead author of the study said in a statement.

The underlying mechanism is that bundle carbon nanotubes carry electrons like a bunch of surfers riding a wave when they are being burnt. 

Already the device is so efficient that it can power simple electronic devices such as LEDs, but researchers think that it could take several years to introduce the product in the market and to use it for commercial purposes. Strano says “it took lithium-ion technology 25 years to get where they are” today.

Currently, researchers are working to improve its efficiency as well as its shelf life, so that it can be used for deep space and deep sea explorations where it is difficult to resupply energy time and again.   

“We are still far from the upper limit that the thermopower wave devices can potentially reach,” said Professor Kourosh Kalantar-Zadeh who was not involved in the study. “However, this step makes the technology more attractive for real applications.”

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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