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Battery Design York University researchers one step closer to creating organic batteries

| Author / Editor: Emmanuel Odunlade / Erika Granath

York University researchers have discovered a way to make Lithium-powered batteries more environmentally friendly while retaining performance, stability, and storage capacity.

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Professor Thomas Baumgartner in his lab at York University
Professor Thomas Baumgartner in his lab at York University
(Bild: York University)

It’s clear that high performing batteries are an important part of our future, especially if we are going to save our climate and prevent the looming effects of environmental degradation and pollution. To this end, a countless number of researchers around the world are working to develop next-gen batteries that possess all the performance requirements, from high energy density to environmental friendliness. A team of researchers led by Professor Thomas Baumgartner at York University recently announced that they are one step closer to creating Organic Batteries.

The team's research was published in the March edition of the journal; Batteries & Supercaps, explaining that the researchers’ have discovered a way to make Lithium-powered batteries more environmentally friendly while retaining its performance, stability and storage capacity.

Organic molecules to replace toxic heavy metals in Lithium-ion batteries

Today, Lithium-ion batteries use toxic, heavy metals which can impact the environment when they are extracted from the ground and are difficult to dispose of safely. Cobalt is one of those heavy metals, used in battery electrodes. Part of the problem is that lithium and cobalt are not abundantly available, and supplies are dwindling.

Professor Thomas Baumgartner and his team are convinced that organic materials are the way forward and they have, to this end, developed and tested new molecules to find the right ones to replace the rare metals currently used in Lithium-ion batteries.

The researchers at York University made a significant breakthrough recently. They were able to create a new carbon-based organic molecule, capable of replacing heavy metals (like cobalt) that are currently used as the positive electrode (Cathode) of lithium-ion batteries. The new material addresses the unsustainable shortcomings of the rare earth metals and its ability to maintain performance levels, if not make them better.

New electrode design can make large-scale manufacturing more environmentally friendly

Speaking about the significance of the breakthrough, Professor Thomas Baumgartner said in a press release, "Electrodes made with organic materials can make large‐scale manufacturing, recycling or disposing of these elements more environmentally friendly."

The York University's researchers regard the development of the material is as an important step towards the development of fully organic and sustainable batteries.

Professor Thomas Baumgartner said: "With this particular class of molecules that we've made, the electroactive component is very suitable for batteries as it's very good at storing electrical charges and has good long-term stability."

The team has carried out numerous tests to date, and been able to evaluate the new molecule's performance levels for several criteria, such as stability. The team was able to establish that the molecule is stable in long-term operation with the ability to charge and discharge for 500 cycles.

Organic electrodes mean less risk for devices overheating

An additional downside of inorganic electrodes that the new molecule seems to solve is the generation of excessive heat during charging. This is one reason why their limited discharging rates to ensure safety.

According to Professor Thomas Baumgartner, there's still more work to be done to improve the capacity of the molecules, and this is the current focus of his research team.

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