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Apple leftovers provide cathode material for sodium-ion batteries

18 February 2016

A carbon-based active material produced from apple leftovers and a material of layered oxides might help reduce the costs of future energy storage systems.

The new carbon-based material for sodium-ion batteries can be extracted from apples (photo: KIT/HIU)

Both were found to have excellent electrochemical properties in addition to demonstrating an environmentally compatible and sustainable use of resources.

Sodium-ion batteries are not only far more powerful than nickel-metal hydride or lead acid accumulators, but also represent an alternative to lithium-ion technology, as the materials required to make them are abundant, easily accessible, and available at low cost.

Now, a team of researchers, led by Professor Stefano Passerini and Dr Daniel Buchholz of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology's  Helmholtz Institute Ulm, has made an important step towards the development of active materials for sodium-based energy storage systems.

For the cathode, they have developed a carbon-based material that can be produced from the leftovers of apples, and which possesses excellent electrochemical properties. So far, more than 1,000 charge and discharge cycles have been demonstrated.

The material developed for the anode consists of several layers of sodium oxides. This active material avoids having to use the expensive and environmentally hazardous element, cobalt, which is frequently used in active materials of commercial lithium-ion batteries.

Under laboratory conditions, the new active material, in which electrochemical energy storage proper takes place, reaches the same efficiency, cyclic stability, capacity, and voltage without any cobalt.

The researchers say both materials mark an important step towards the development of inexpensive and environmentally friendly sodium-ion batteries.

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