Green Algae ushers in paper batteries

After nanofarming of algae to suck out oil from algae, now nano batteries from algae!

Scientists are working on the development of paper-based batteries made from algae to power electronics in the future.

A report in Live Science says that scientists from around the world are working towards developing thin, flexible, lightweight, inexpensive, environmentally friendly batteries made wholly from nonmetal parts. Among the most hopeful materials for these batteries are conducting polymers.

However, until now these are not viable for use in batteries – for example, their ability to hold a charge often reduces over use. The answer to this new battery turned out to be green algae called Cladophora. This algae makes an unusual kind of cellulose characterised by a very large surface area ? 100 times that of the cellulose found in paper.

This permitted the researchers to considerably increase the amount of conducting polymer available for use in the new device, allowing it to recharge better, hold and discharge electricity.
That is very interesting.

“We have long hoped to find some sort of constructive use for the material from algae blooms and have now been shown this to be possible,” said researcher Maria Stromme, a nanotechnologist at the famous Uppsala University, Sweden.

The new batteries comprised extremely thin layers of conducting polymer just 40 to 50 nanometers in width, coating algae cellulose fibres only 20 to 30 nanometers wide that were gathered into paper sheets.

They could hold 50-200 percent more charge than similar conducting polymer batteries and once better optimised, they might even be competitive with commercial lithium batteries, the researchers noted. They also recharged much faster than the usual rechargeable batteries.

Recharge in quick time:

While a regular battery takes at least an hour to recharge, the new batteries could recharge in 8-11 seconds. The new battery also showed a remarkable increase in the ability to hold a charge over use.

While a comparable polymer battery showed a 50 percent dip in the amount of charge it could hold after 60 cycles of discharging and recharging, the new battery showed just a 6% dip through 100 charging cycles. The researchers proposed that their batteries may be suitable for applications concerning flexible electronics like clothing and packaging.

Imagine a thin birthday card singing a song! These paper batteries are environmental friendly.

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Groundbreaking Nanofarming Tech for Algae

Groundbreaking “nanofarming” technology that safely harvests oil from the algae so the pond-based “crop” can keep on producing has been developed by researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory and Iowa State University.

The “nanofarming” technology uses nanoparticles to extract oil from the algae. The process doesn’t harm the algae like other methods being developed, which helps reduce both production costs and the production cycle. Once the algal oil is extracted, a separate and proven solid catalyst from Catilin will be used to produce ASTM and EN certified biodiesel.

Commercialization of this new technology is at the center of a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement between the Ames Laboratory and Catilin, a nano-technology-based company that specializes in biofuel production. The agreement targets development of this novel approach to reduce the cost and energy consumption of the industrial processing of non-food source biofuel feedstock.

The three-year project is being funded with $885,000 from DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and $216,000 from Catilin and $16,000 from Iowa State University in matching funds.

According to Marek Pruski, Ames Laboratory senior physicist and co-investigator on the project, phase one and two of the project will cover the culturing and selection of microalgae as well as the development of the specific nanoparticle-based extraction and catalyst technologies for the removal of algal oil and the production of biodiesel, respectively. Phase three will focus on scale-up of the catalyst and pilot plant testing on conversion to biodiesel.

“When we ultimately put together this exceptional extraction technology with Catilin’s existing solid biodiesel catalyst, we will dramatically increase the reality of renewable energy,” said Catilin’s CEO, Larry Lenhart. “Given the Obama Administration’s objectives, the timing is perfect.”