Everyone wants modern electronics to be more affordable and more environmentally friendly. Scientists decided to get inspiration from nature and found that a good way of achieving that is creating biologically-derived battery. University of Toronto chemists think that in the future it may change our electronics for the better.
Normal batteries consist of three parts: cathode, anode and an electrolyte solution, in which ions can travel between the cathode and anode electrodes. Scientists are using uses flavin from vitamin B2 as the cathode, which is a part of the battery, which stores the electricity that is released when connected to a device. It is the first battery of its kind to use bio-derived polymers for one of the electrodes. Although the technology is very complex, put simply it can be explained like this – expensive and hard to process metal (for example, cobalt) is replaced with a vitamin-created plastic.
Scientists found this polymer while studying a variety of long-chain polymers. They were focusing on pendant group polymers: the molecules attached to a ‘backbone’ chain of a long molecule. Dwight Seferos, co-author of the study, said: “You put things together in a certain order, but some things that look like they’ll fit together on paper don’t in reality. We tried a few approaches and the fifth one worked”. The material in question was created from vitamin B2, which allowed them to create a battery that features high capacity and high voltage.
One of the goals of the research was to create a battery that is green. Scientists say it the goal was reached, because the material cathode is coming from is even edible. However, this is still the very beginning of a very long research process. The current prototype is small – it is the size of a hearing aid battery. However, the hope is to create batteries, which have no metal and can be charged again and again, are flexible, thin, very powerful and even transparent.
These vitamin-powered batteries may support the next step of the creation of the internet of things. More and more devices will need batteries because of their portable nature. Therefore, we should be waiting for these green, affordable and very efficient batteries to come into our electronic devices.