Engineers Nuke Plastic to Make Better Batteries


Last week, we saw how one company is upcycling old fishing nets into office chairs as a way to keep plastic out of landfills.

Well, this week engineers at Purdue University have found a way to not only find another possible solution for the eight million metric tons of plastic that wind up in landfills every year, but they have found a way to improve battery design in the process.

The engineers take an ink-free plastic that is soaked in sulfuric acid and microwave it to create sulfonated carbon. The byproduct is used as a carbon scaffold in lithium-sulfur batteries that prevents the batteries from losing their charge.  

Lithium-sulfur batteries could one day replace lithium-ion batteries, but they haven't been known to last long — they're only usable for around 100 charging cycles. When you consider that the average person charges his/her phone twice a day, people might riot if the battery only lasts 50 days.

Next, the researchers hope to take this concept and make a larger battery, but more work needs to be done if they have a future in new applications. While the carbon scaffold does double a battery's lifespan, we're still only talking about 200 cycles or 100 days for the average smartphone user.


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