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Battery Materials Made Using Crab Shells 42

MTorrice writes "Crab shells usually are just a nuisance that you have to crack and dig through to get the delicious meat inside. But one team of materials scientists thinks the shells could help them fabricate materials for long lasting batteries. The team used the nanostructures (abstract) found in the crustacean shells as templates to make sulfur and silicon electrode materials for lithium-ion batteries. Sulfur or silicon electrodes have a 10-times greater theoretical energy storage capacity than electrodes used in commercial batteries."
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Battery Materials Made Using Crab Shells

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    From the title it sounds like they're using the crab shells as electrodes, when really they just used the nano-structures in the shells to fabricate better electrodes.

    • Re:Misleading title (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mlts ( 1038732 ) * on Thursday June 20, 2013 @12:13PM (#44061509)

      The 10x storage also gets me wondering. Does this mean 10x as much energy density per weight, or per volume? A 5-6 pound car battery is still taking up a lot of space. However, a battery that takes up 1/10 the volume is something that is almost near the level of gasoline for energy density, and has the possibility of completely changing transportation as we know it.

      It looks like battery life will be extended by using crab shell designs, which is an important thing.

      • From TFAbstract:

        The resulting nanostructured electrodes show high specific capacities (1230 mAh/g for sulfur and 3060 mAh/g for silicon) and excellent cycling performance (up to 200 cycles with 60% and 95% capacity retention, respectively).

        Wikipedia says gasoline is about 13 kWh/kg. Who wants to do some unit conversion? (Hint: not me.)

      • Even if they're large and heavy we can still use them to store surplus load of a solar cell and heat out houses instead of oil.

        • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

          Now all we need is solar cells that are better than 30% efficient so we can have this magical "surplus" you speak of.

        • by mlts ( 1038732 ) *

          Any piece of the puzzle is an improvement, from better solar cells (ones that can make more energy per square foot, ones that work well in shade) to better charge controllers [1], to a "pre-charging" bank of supercap batteries (which can store energy and allow the main bank to charge at the optimal rate, even allowing for some charging to be done when the panels are not making electricity), to denser energy in storage batteries, finally to better quality inverters.

          [1]: I don't understand why we even have P

      • by strack ( 1051390 )
        no. energy storage per kg is much more important than energy storage per litre of volume. an electric car would be pushing around a 50kg battery vs a 500kg battery, which would increase the range much more.
        • by haruchai ( 17472 )

          Don't they both matter? A material that stores as much energy per kilo as gasoline but has a density of an aerogel is going to be somewhat impractical

      • by azav ( 469988 )

        Contents packed by weight, not by volume. Some settling may occur during shipping.

    • Actually, they're using them as templates, so they're not using them directly.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 20, 2013 @12:03PM (#44061381)

    Now if we only had a radio made of coconuts.

    • by ericloewe ( 2129490 ) on Thursday June 20, 2013 @12:15PM (#44061525)

      Coconuts seem to be a reasonable analogue of horses, so you can have a friend bang coconuts together and you'll practically be riding a horse.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        It's not a question of where he grips the coconut, it's a matter of weight ratio.

    • Now if we only had a radio made of coconuts.

      Gilligan would manage to trash it somehow. Let's face it. You're never getting off that island.

    • My girlfriend got a job demonstrating these down at the beach.
      They were using the 'C Cell' size battery and comparing theirs to major brand batteries.
      Part of her job was to pull the covers off of the batteries so people wouldn't know which brand they were using.
      When people ask me what she does foo a living I say:
          She shells C-Cells by the sea shore.
      I know you caught me.
      I made up the part about having a girlfriend.

    • Where would they have gotten crabs?

      Other than Ginger, I mean.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    usually are just a nuisance that you have to crack and dig through to get the delicious acid inside.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Crab shells kill mold, mildew and fungus too...

    Some weird product we found to treat a wet area... all natural and all that bs.. gave it a shot. was called clear shell...

    Dammed if it didnt work.. I guess i've never seen a moldy crab, even tho they're wet all the time. lol

    So far it's worked better than all the other anti crap we've tried there.

    Still bizarre... liquid crabshells to kill mold.

  • Soo... (Score:5, Informative)

    by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Thursday June 20, 2013 @12:13PM (#44061511)

    So if I understand this correctly, by increasing the surface area of the electrodes, you increase storage density. We already knew that. The problem is those electrodes corrode over time... ions swap between the two plates, which is why we don't go through the effort of manufacturing them with lots of little pits and twists in them, because they'll just corrode that much faster. No pure metal can resist this, and alloys that can generally make poor foundations to build batteries on. Plus there's manufacturing cost. For something like a car battery... that's important. For something like a cell phone, I can see some merit in making batteries with a higher energy density at the tradeoff of shorter life. Of course, they're already pretty short right now...and expensive. :(

    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      they changed what the electrodes are made of as well.

      the crab shell shit is just for getting press.. which makes me think they don't have a practical way to market.

      • chemical vapor deposition is already a commonly used production technique... not so sure you would be able to get consistency out of a crab shell. TFA was short on facts and data so I can't really make a conclusion, but yeah wanting press is a no brainer...

    • According to the article

      Cell phone battery electrodes retain about 80% of their capacity after 500 cycles

      and since my battery only requires charging every other day sometimes three days depending on how much I'm using that it is almost 3 years. I have usually dropped my phone a few hundred times by then and am already looking at a new one.

      Silicon sounds like it might be promising if in an actual battery is consistent with the 95% capacity after 200 cycles then the life span may not be shorter.

    • So if I understand this correctly, by increasing the surface area of the electrodes, you increase storage density. We already knew that.

      We did? I thought increasing the surface area of the electrodes increased the reaction rate, and thus the instantaneous power output. Energy capacity was increased by having more reagent.

    • by b4upoo ( 166390 )

      The cost of batteries really is the monkey in the middle issue and not based on costs. For example a Li-ion battery for my portable phone costs about $23.00 locally no matter where I shop. The cost of the identical battery on E-Bay runs about $4. and shipping is free. And i did get first quality results and very rapid shipping.
      I apparently must now apologize to the third world nations. I have eaten enough blue cr

  • Either you can do it, or you can't. My laptop runs on electricity, not theory.

  • There's for example this guy [youtube.com] who appears to be very well-versed in making supercaps using glass jars and chemicals in white bottles obtained from unusual sources. He has a few videos where he uses chitin from fungi [youtube.com] to make them.

    He's not the only guy doing this, but for every video on this level of science there is a dozen perpetual motion devices. If you know of more interesting amsci, please link.

  • by gmuslera ( 3436 ) on Thursday June 20, 2013 @12:31PM (#44061721) Homepage Journal
    So, how long till the adn of crabs is put into some microbes to industrially make those materials? 25+ years [xkcd.com]?
  • Any chance Zebra mussels would do as well? We got lots of them\.

  • finally. my lifelong dream of a multi-core cellphone with the pungent aroma of dried crab is so close i can almost taste it.
  • The "delicious" is misplaced. I guess the rest of the article is of the same accuracy level.

I came, I saw, I deleted all your files.