Scientists turn waste paper into raw material for manufacturing lithium batteries

Researchers from Nanyang Technological University, a university of technology in Singapore, managed to recycle paper and transform what would become garbage into essential material for the development of lithium batteries. Through a process called carbonization, which turns pieces of paper into pure carbon, the scientists transformed the fibers into electrodes, used in the technology of rechargeable batteries, such as cell phones and computers.

Professor Lai Changquan with assistant Lim Guo Yao and developed carbon anodes

Professor Lai Changquan with assistant Lim Guo Yao and developed carbon anodes

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“Since carbonization takes place in the absence of oxygen, this system emits negligible amounts of carbon dioxide. This helps drastically reduce the production of greenhouse gases,” explained Lai Changquan, professor of Mechanical Engineering at the university and lead author of the study. The process also takes advantage of water vapor and oils used to produce biofuels, which confirms it as an especially ecological solution for reuse.

Innovation could bring important and sustainable purpose to wasted paper

Innovation could bring sustainable purpose to tons of wasted paper

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According to the disclosure, the carbon anodes, fundamental elements for the operation of ion and lithium batteries, produced by the process are flexible and of good duration, with electrochemical properties superior to the anodes currently manufactured. In tests, the capacity of the components to be charged and discharged more than 1,200 times was proven, presenting a superior durability to the equivalent devices manufactured in traditional processes and used in current batteries.

Detail of carbon anodes created from recycled paper

Detail of carbon anodes created from recycled paper

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“Another advantage of these new carbon anodes is that they can also withstand more physical stress than conventional power cells, absorbing approximately five times more electricity compared to other lithium batteries,” said Changquan. The method of using paper as a raw material also requires less heavy metals, and can considerably reduce the total cost of manufacturing a battery, as well as reduce the need to use fossil fuels.

Lai Changquan is a professor of mechanical engineering at the university and lead author of the study.

Lai Changquan is a professor of mechanical engineering at the university and lead author of the study.

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“Our system converts a common and ubiquitous material, such as paper, into another extremely durable one”, added the professor and researcher. “I think this could open a new path and motivate other researchers to find solutions for the transformation of other cellulose-based substrates, such as textiles and packaging materials, discarded in large quantities around the world”, concluded Changquan.

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