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Greener Batteries Could Be Made From Plants

The roots from a plant may someday be used to make greener batteries.

That is what scientists who discovered that purpurin, a substance that can be extracted from the root of the madder plant, found.

The group of researchers learned that it is possible to make rechargeable lithium ion batteries from this material as it can be implemented as a natural cathode.

The plant, categorically known as Rubia tinctorum, has traditionally been used as a natural dye. When examining ways to use organic molecule properties and their capacity to work with lithium ion, they discovered purpurin’s effectiveness as a better rechargeable battery component.

Many lithium ion batteries are comprised of a cobalt cathode, which is a contaminant. These types of batteries are used to power up many electronics and as pointed out in the study, 30% of the worldwide cobalt supply is reserved for lithium ion based batteries.

These are not cheap to produce or recycle, and both processes use up large amounts of energy. Looking to improve the construction of batteries and making them more environmentally sound where possible, they wanted to go a step further than just making traditional batteries better. They found that they could implement a 20% carbon to the purpurin for conductivity.

Greener Batteries Could Be Made From Plants

Image source: www.nature.com

According to the principal investigators other sources like waste from agriculture could also be used, as research has unearthed an understanding of how organic molecules and lithium ions can work together. They have also learned more about ways the anode, the other conductor found in lithium ion based batteries, can be processed in more natural ways.

With regard to their findings, researchers stated that the

“…results pay a way towards the development of green and sustainable lithium battery electrodes from plant/crop-based materials and agricultural wastes.”

Looking for greener solutions to make items that aren’t currently very ecologically manufactured or disposed of, like batteries, is small step but one in a larger process that can make a big difference.

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