Cars of the Future Might Have Batteries Made of Crab Shells

The world's scientists seem to be able to create more sustainable batteries with unusual sources. Namely crustaceans. In a paper published in the journal Matter, researchers say they have created a biodegradable battery with a substance found in crab and lobster shells.

Reporting from Gizmodo, an important part of how the battery works is the electrolyte substance that is between the two electrical terminals at both ends. This substance helps the ions move back and forth between the positively and negatively charged terminals to generate electricity.

Conventional batteries rely on lead or lithium (for example, lead-acid batteries and lithium-ion batteries). But this battery usage presents a number of problems.

If we want to switch from fossil fuels, we will need a large number of batteries. Unfortunately, traditional electrolytes bring with them a number of new problems. They can be very complicated to recycle, electrolytes are not biodegradable, and can be dangerous, sometimes exploding or causing a fire.

Problems with lithium batteries, conventional batteries

In the case of lithium batteries, there are also problems with destructive mining practices. One thing the world may have to do is to get enough lithium for its projected energy needs.

But by making use of crustaceans, that problem probably doesn't have to happen. Crabs and lobsters have a material in their exoskeleton called chitin, which helps keep their shells hard and strong.

Chitin can also be made into a derivative called chitosan, which researchers combine with zinc to make a new electrolyte. The substance is used to power a battery which they say remains almost completely energy efficient after 400 hours of use.

Advantages of traditional battery electrolyte

What's more, unlike traditional battery electrolytes, this crab liquid will decompose in the soil in about five months. So leaving only zinc that can be recycled.

"In the future, I hope that all components in the battery are biodegradable," said lead author Liangbing Hu, director of the University of Maryland's Center for Materials Innovation in a press release. “Not only the material itself but also the biomaterial fabrication process.”

The good news, crabs are not the only source of chitin in the world. The shells of crustaceans are very rich in chitin, but chitin can also be found in the walls of fungi and parts of squid.

Unfortunately, one lab test of a biodegradable lobster energy pack doesn't mean that all of the battery problems we've had so far are instantly solved.

"When people develop new materials for battery technology, there tends to be a significant gap between promising laboratory results and verifiable and scalable technology," Graham Newton, a professor of chemistry at the University of Nottingham who was not involved in the study, told The Guardians.

However, Newton said the research was encouraging. However, there are still some challenges to be faced in the development of zinc ion batteries, although fundamental studies like this are very important. (*)
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