From your laptop to your Smartphone, every portable gadget you possess might be running on energy supplied to it by its lithium-ion battery. The sheer number of these portable batteries in use today, poses a serious threat to the environment as not many of these batteries are recycled and the toxic ingredients mostly seep through the landfills, polluting the delicate ecosystem around.
Currently lithium cobalt oxide is the material of choice used for forming the cathode in lithium-ion batteries. However, mining all that cobalt and then extracting it back for recycling is a pretty expensive and an energy-intensive task. Researchers from Rice University believe that for every kWh of energy in a lithium-ion battery, production and recycling accounts for about 72kg of CO2. This is the reason the research team has come up with an eco friendly alternative.
The team here found that purpurin, a red/yellow dye extracted from the root of the madder plant could be used to make environmentally friendly battery cathode by replacing the conventional lithium cobalt oxide. Moreover, converting the material into a working cathode requires less energy too. The creation can happen at room temperature using a process that involves dissolving the purpurin in an alcohol solvent and then adding lithium salt to the mix. Using the material, the team built a half-battery cell with a capacity of 90mAh per gram after 50 charge/discharge cycles. The team is confident that commercial variants of the battery would be available in the near future.