Batteries Made From Crab Shells? It’s More Likely Than You Think

Batteries Made From Crab Shells? It’s More Likely Than You Think

The electrolytes in batteries could one day be made from crab and lobster shells, which are a terrific sustainable material.

Crabs shells are strong. Like, shells are literally armour that crustaceans grow on them to deflect damage and predators, protecting their insides from potential harm as an exoskeleton (something that all arthropods have in common).

Even more, arthropods shed these shells overtime, leaving their used shells behind to be broken down… or be repurposed.

Hence why crab and lobster shells make a terrific choice for the electrolytes in batteries, which are necessary for batteries to function.

“Vast quantities of batteries are being produced and consumed, raising the possibility of environmental problems,” said Liangbing Hu, the lead author of the study and director of the University of Maryland’s Center for Materials Innovation.

“For example, polypropylene and polycarbonate separators, which are widely used in lithium-ion batteries, take hundreds or thousands of years to degrade and add to environmental burden.”

Crab and lobster shells only take months before they completely biodegrade, making them a terrific choice for batteries that may be used and disposed of.

In researching the alternative electrolyte, the team broke down the shells (made from chitin) and turned it into chitosan. Although chitosan can be sourced from squids and fungi (which may have a battery future for itself), the most abundant source of it is crustaceans like crabs and lobsters.

Researchers used the crab-sourced electrolytes in a zinc battery (zinc being far more common on Earth than lithium), seen as cheaper and safer by the team.

After 1,000 cycles, the battery had an efficiency of 99.7 per cent, making it a worthwhile choice for wind and solar energy storage, according to the research team.

“In the future, I hope all components in batteries are biodegradable,” added Hu.

“Not only the material itself but also the fabrication process of biomaterials.”

Should we create a crab farming industry specifically for sourcing battery components? Probably not. Could we use the shells of crustaceans that have been left behind, or the shells discarded from restaurants? Totally.

You can read the research in Matter or read the press release online.

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