New Batteries from Cotton and Seawater?

Anti-EV types frequently point to the materials that go into current battery technology and make dire claims about the environmental impacts of their sourcing (as if producing petroleum was a zero impact exercise). That is today. What if future batteries could be created from non-mined materials?

Mining the lithium and other minerals we need for batteries is taking an increasing toll on the environment. There are alternative materials all around us though.

Zip. The power’s out. But on a street in India, there’s a cash machine still happily dispensing banknotes. Thanks, in part, to burnt cotton. For this cash machine has a backup battery inside it – a battery that contains carbon from carefully combusted cotton.

“The exact process is secret, to be honest with you,” says Inketsu Okina, chief intelligence officer at PJP Eye, the Japanese firm that made the battery. He’s not joking, either. “The temperature is secret and atmosphere is secret. Pressure is secret,” he continues, cagily.

Okina does say that a high temperature is required, above 3,000C (5,432F). And that 1kg (2.2lbs) of cotton yields 200g (7oz) of carbon – with just 2g (0.07oz) needed for each battery cell. The firm bought a shipment of cotton in 2017 and still hasn’t used all of it, says Okina.

In the batteries developed by the company, together with researchers at Kyushu University in Fukuoka, Japan, carbon is used for the anode – one of the two electrodes between which flow ions, the charged particles in batteries. Ions move in one direction when the battery is charging and in the other direction when it releases energy to a device. The majority of batteries use graphite as an anode but PJP Eye argues their approach is more sustainable, since they can make anodes using waste cotton from the textile industry.

With huge demand for batteries expected in the coming years, propelled by the rise of electric vehicles and large energy storage systems, some researchers and businesses are frantically developing possible alternatives to the lithium ion and graphite batteries that are commonplace today. Like PJP Eye, they argue we could be using much more sustainable and widely available materials for battery production.

Volvo’s Electric Car Announcement

I think that Volvo’s announcement regarding electric vehicles (EVs) has been largely misunderstood or mis-reported as them stating that they will only have EVs by 2020. Actually, they stated that they will only design and release NEW EVs after that date. The existing stable of gasoline powered vehicles will continue to live on past 2020.