Lsea air soon in electric vehicles? According to our British colleagues from Guardian, American scientists have succeeded in creating electric batteries that are more respectful of the environment by using a chemical compound found inside the shells of crabs and lobsters. This is “good” news since the question of the environmental impact of the batteries currently used in electric cars – for example – is increasingly decried, with lithium in particular. A product that can sometimes take thousands of years to decompose.
Concretely, crabs and lobsters – like many crustaceans – have what is called an exoskeleton, in other words an external skeleton. If you have ever come across a crab on the beach – or on your plate… – you have noticed that the shell of these marine animals is extremely hard and resistant. This characteristic is due to the presence of a very specific molecule: chitin. However, after a chemical treatment and the addition of an acid, this chitin can be transformed into a gel acting as an electrolyte. This technical term designates a substance capable of transmitting an electric charge. This gel then allows energy to be stored.
Finally, to obtain a real battery, scientists have associated this electrolyte with zinc, a metal increasingly used by manufacturers. According to the first tests, the “green” battery retains an efficiency of 99.7% after a thousand recharges. Indeed, any electric accumulator gradually loses efficiency over time. The challenge for manufacturers is to be able to offer the longest and most stable efficiency.
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A battery that naturally decomposes and can be recycled
The real progress with this innovation, beyond its good efficiency, is above all its biodegradability. Indeed, according to the scientists behind this experiment, two-thirds of this battery decomposes in less than five months, thanks to microbial activity. Even better, once the gel is gone, only the zinc remains. However, manufacturers already know how to recycle this metal. According Antonio J Fernández Romero, professor of materials science for energy production at the University of Cartagena in Spain, interviewed by our colleagues, this innovation is very important. “The design of new batteries that are environmentally friendly, inexpensive and produce a high discharge capacity, is one of the most important elements that must be developed in the years to come”, explains the specialist.
Another advantage that reinforces this new battery, chitin is extremely widespread on Earth. Indeed, in nature, it is present in mushrooms, but also insects. It can also be found in restaurant food waste. Finally, during this study, the scientists realized that the battery was not flammable. A real advantage when you know how complex electric battery fires are for firefighters to put out. It is clear that the hypothesis of chitin to obtain green batteries seems indeed solid.
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