One of the most frustrating nuisances of daily life: running out of battery on your cell phone just when you need it the most. And, let’s be honest, we need our phones “the most” all the time!
But let’s have a quick crash course on our ever-annoying phone batteries. A very important part of current lithium-ion batteries (the type currently in your smartphone) is called the anode and presently anodes are created using synthetic graphite. The problem with this type of batteries is that they are very expensive to manufacture and their preparation process uses chemicals which are harmful to the environment. Moreover, the capacity of batteries currently produced by this material fades over time, so the more you use your phone the more decrease you will see in the capacity of your battery. Quite unfair isn’t it?
To solve all of these problems, scientists have long been looking for ways to create batteries that are inexpensive to produce, environmentally friendly and can last longer. And they have found the most unlikely of heroes to do just that in our very own mushroom!
You can’t believe it? Neither did we but it’s the truth! The Portobello mushroom is great on the BBQ or stuffed in the oven but, apparently, this delicious fungus might even help power the world!
Researchers from the University of California, Riverside have created a new type of lithium-ion battery by replacing the harsh synthetic graphite with the skins of Portobello mushrooms!
Mushrooms are highly porous and apparently this porosity is important for batteries because it creates more space for the storage and transfer of energy. Even more importantly, mushrooms are high in potassium salt which makes the porosity of the mushrooms more accessible with each charge and discharge cycle, which actually increases the battery’s capacity over time! So instead of having a battery that degrades every time you use it and, after a while, charging is required more often, mushroom batteries will actually improve with age. It sounds a bit like Jamie Oliver decided to write a science fiction book to be honest!
Researchers say that mushroom batteries need more optimization before they can fully replace the standard synthetic graphite ones but the article published on the journal Nature Scientific Reports (http://www.nature.com/articles/srep14575) shows that it is something we should expect in the future.
Wow, we always thought that mushrooms could one day save the world, being a superfood and all, but we never expected THIS!