Grzegorz Milczarek and Olle Inganas have come up with an ingenious new idea that could make batteries a lot cheaper and also ecologically safe when compared to the current models. These two researchers are proposing the use of Lignin based material as a cathode in conventional batteries and if the idea does take off commercially, it could lead us towards a future that is toxic-free despite the use of batteries.
A battery broadly has three important components- the anode, the cathode and the electrolyte in between, which conducts the electrons. It is the movement of charges that between the two diodes that sees the flow of current. A good cathode is one that must be able to absorb plenty of charge and the two researchers have proved with a series of experiments that lignin-polypyrrole combination serves this purpose best. Lignin is a waste product of the paper industry and hence is available in plenty and at less cost.
Lignin is rich in a chemical compound called phenols which are crucial for the formation of quinines that help make a material an ideal cathode. By amalgamating Lignin with Polypyrrole, the duo has come up with a cheap alternative cathode that can replace the current ones made out of expensive metals. The next step in designing the cheap batteries would be to find similar anode components that are cheap and biodegradable. The electrolyte is generally made out of chemicals that are available in abundance and cost effective.
So, inexpensive anode and cathode will eventually lead to batteries that cost a lot less than today. Now, if we can only do away with the chemical electrolyte and use a biodegradable and less toxic alternative!