Scientists turn waste polymer into battery components

Reference image of a lithium-ion battery for BMW. (Image by RudolfSimon, Wikimedia Commons)

Researchers at Purdue University and Tufts University in the US, together with colleagues at the Indian Institute of Technology, are transforming waste polyethylene terephthalate into battery components.

In a study published in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, the scientists explain that they used an ultrafast microwave irradiation process to turn polyethylene terephthalate flakes into disodium terephthalate and use that as battery anode material.

Polyethylene terephthalate is one of the most recyclable polymers. It is used in fibres for clothing, containers for liquids and foods, thermoforming for manufacturing, among other applications

“We are helping to address the growth in the proliferation of renewable energy conversion and storage, which stems from the societal attention and increasing awareness of climate change and energy resource limitation,” Vilas Pol, a Purdue associate professor of chemical engineering and senior author of the paper, said in a media statement.

Pol said that his team tried the approach with both lithium-ion and sodium-ion battery cells. The reasoning behind this decision is that, in their experience, while lithium-ion technology is currently dominating both the portable electronics and electric vehicles market, sodium-ion battery research also has gained significant attention due to its low cost and appealing electrochemical performance in grid applications.

“The applicability of the microwave technique on organic reactions has gained attention in recent times due to its advantage of the rapid reaction process,” Pol said. “We have accomplished the complete conversion of PET to disodium terephthalate within 120 seconds, in a typical household microwave setup.”

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