Making batteries from thin air

September 5, 2018, Freshscience
Dr Jessica Allen is developing advanced materials to make better batteries. Credit: University of Newcastle

Sunlight is being used to convert carbon dioxide into batteries, thanks to a new technology being developed by researchers at the University of Newcastle.

Currently, we mine the materials we use to make batteries. One of these materials is graphite—a type of carbon—that has specific properties that makes it good at storing , including high conductivity and chemical stability.

But will this secure our long-term energy future?

"As we move more and more to renewable sources of energy we're going to need a lot of batteries to store energy, and manage the variability of the sun and the wind," says Dr Jessica Allen, who is part of the research team.

"We need to think about where materials for these batteries will come from, and look for more sustainable alternatives."

That alternative turns out to be a well-known chemical reaction, in reverse.

When carbon (for example in the form of coal) is burnt in oxygen it produces energy, and carbon dioxide as a by-product. This is the principle behind coal-fired power stations.

Jessica and her colleagues have found they can reverse this process using elevated temperatures and chemical intermediates. By using heat from the sun they can transform emissions from industry into carbon, with oxygen as the only by-product.

"This method allows us to make carbon which is even better at storing electrical energy than the mined graphite," says Jessica, "which enhances the performance and stability of the final batteries we produce."

"This is just one example of how solar manufacturing could be a game changer for Australian industry, and allow us to export of high-value products derived from our nation's biggest untapped resource—the sun."

Explore further: New carbon could signal step-change for the world's most popular batteries

Related Stories

Making batteries from waste glass bottles

April 19, 2017

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside's Bourns College of Engineering have used waste glass bottles and a low-cost chemical process to create nanosilicon anodes for high-performance lithium-ion batteries. ...

Renewable coal on the horizon

November 6, 2017

Coal fueled the Industrial Revolution, but it took eons to form. Now, a team of researchers at the University of Minnesota Duluth has introduced what might be called "instant coal": an energy-dense biofuel made from wood ...

Recommended for you

Technology near for real-time TV political fact checks

January 18, 2019

A Duke University team expects to have a product available for election year that will allow television networks to offer real-time fact checks onscreen when a politician makes a questionable claim during a speech or debate.

Privacy becomes a selling point at tech show

January 7, 2019

Apple is not among the exhibitors at the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show, but that didn't prevent the iPhone maker from sending a message to attendees on a large billboard.

China's Huawei unveils chip for global big data market

January 7, 2019

Huawei Technologies Ltd. showed off a new processor chip for data centers and cloud computing Monday, expanding into new and growing markets despite Western warnings the company might be a security risk.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.