Chinese find new ‘silk route’ to power next-gen batteries

BEIJING (TIP): A ‘green’ material derived from natural silk can boost the performance of lithium-ion batteries used in portable gadgets and electric cars, scientists say.

Carbon is a key component in commercial lithium-ion energy storage devices, including batteries and super capacitors. Most commonly, graphite fills that role, but it has a limited energy capacity, researchers said.

Lithium-ion batteries have enabled many of today’s electronics, from portable gadgets to electric cars, but much to the frustration of consumers, none of these batteries last long without a recharge.

To improve the energy storage, manufacturers are looking for an alternative material to replace graphite.

Chuanbao Cao and colleagues at the Beijing Institute of Technology wanted to see if they could develop such a material using a sustainable source. The researchers found a way to process natural silk to create carbon-based nanosheets that could potentially be used in energy storage devices.

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Their material stores five times more lithium than graphite can – a capacity that is critical to improving battery performance.

It also worked for over 10,000 cycles with only a 9% loss in stability. The researchers successfully incorporated their material in prototype batteries and su8percapacitors in a one-step method that could easily be scaled up.

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