My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Stanford University Cellulose Aerogel Battery means Lighter All-Electric Vehicles Battery

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Stanford University Cellulose Aerogel Battery means Lighter All-Electric Vehicles Battery

“You can press it as much as you want. While flexible and stretchable electronics already exist, the insensitivity to shock and impact are somewhat new”

Dr. Max Hamedi, who is a researcher at KTH and Harvard University commenting on the developement of an aerogel battery based on cellulose derived from wood

I already know it's possible to make a water filter that can remove harmful E.Coli Bacteria using a Tree Branch cutting as reported in my blog article entitled “MIT Researchers use White Pine Tree Branches as effective Water Filter - How to make Potable Water using a Xylem Filter”.

But batteries? Never saw that coming!

An international research team from the KTH Royal Institute of Technology from Sweden and Stanford University in the USA have developed a high-capacity aerogel battery based on wood pulp as reported in the article “Trees are source for high­capacity, soft batteries”, published June 1 2015, Physorg

Their research was published in the Friday May 9th 2015 issue of Nature Communications magazine under the heading titled “Self­Assembled Three­Dimensional And Compressible Interdigitated Thin Film Supercapacitors And Batteries”. 

The cellulose battery marks a departure away from making batteries from traditional inorganic material with an emphasis on making the battery conform to a particular shape.

Instead, thanks to the flexible and compressible nature of wood pulp, it is possible to make the battery any shape and then squeeze it into any space and it still retains its energy-storage properties to quote Dr. Max Hamedi, who is a researcher at KTH and Harvard University: “It is possible to make incredible materials from trees and cellulose. There are limits to how thin a battery can be, but that becomes less relevant in 3D. We are no longer restricted to two dimensions. We can build in three dimensions, enabling us to fit more electronics in a smaller space”.

This is the 3D Structure that Dr. Max Hamedi is gushing about, as normally most batteries are constructed by mixing together and inorganic compounds to make the paste inside of most typical batteries, a process that can be likened to 2D.

This cellulose battery’s made from a material that is already 3D in nature.

Chemicals have been added to give it the properties for a very high capacity battery that's soft as mattress foam but just as unbreakable, to quote Dr. Max Hamedi: “The result is a material that is strong, light and soft.  The material resembles foam in a mattress, though it is a little harder, lighter and more porous. You can touch it without it breaking”.

We may be looking at yet another high capacity battery that can be used in Alternative Energy Applications like the University of Texas at Austin Semi-Liquid Battery as detailed in my blog article entitled “University of Texas at Austin Semi-Liquid Battery – Liquid Gel Batteries in Smartphones means Battery life measured in years and not hours” and possibly Tablets and smartphones.

So how did Dr. Max Hamedi and the research team from the KTH Royal Institute of Technology from Sweden and Stanford University in the USA fabricate this battery? First, they had to cut some wood.

Dr. Max Hamedi cellulose Aerogel Battery - Tetrahedral crystalline structure Serta Mattress

The researchers got some wood from select trees, removed the bark and then proceeded to masticate the wood until it was a powder on the same level of purity as baking flour.

This reduced the macromolecular structure of the cellulose to one where it composed of anywhere from 20 to 200 atoms in molecular chains, effectively making the cellulose into a nano-material. Those nano-particles of cellulose were then dissolved in boiled distilled water, which was then frozen slowly so create large ice crystal forming without any dissolved gases.

Then the frozen nano-particles of cellulose were freeze-dried using a vacuum evaporator set at high vacuum, causing the water to sublime from a solid phase straight to a gaseous phase.

Because the frozen ice did not pass through a water phase, which would have occurred had the frozen nano-particles of cellulose been melted at r.t.p (Room temperature and pressure), the nano-particles of cellulose remained locked in the tetrahedral crystalline structure made up of hydrogen bonds that was formed by the ice crystals.

This meant that the nano-particles of cellulose now had a macromolecular tetrahedral crystalline structure like a diamond.

But because it was composed of nano-particles of cellulose held together by Van Der Waal's bonds and possibly some covalent bonds due to the high reactivity of the nano-particles of cellulose, the structure isn't so rigid and is comparable in surface area to the human lung, to quote Dr. Max Hamedi: “You can press it as much as you want. While flexible and stretchable electronics already exist, the insensitivity to shock and impact are somewhat new."

In fact, it is porous and sponge-like properties are because of the air pockets left by the smaller water molecules that were freeze-dried out of the molecular matrix. The result is an air-filled form of cellulose mimicking an aerogel. It was then treated with metallic salts containing Lithium, Vanadium. Manganese and Zinc using vapour deposition.

The result: an aerogel that can store energy within its honeycomb-like tetrahedral crystalline structure like a battery to quote Dr. Max Hamedi: “We use a very precise technique, verging on the atomic level, which adds ink that conducts electricity within the aerogel. You can coat the entire surface within”.

Or, a really comfortable alternative to the Serta Mattress that’s got power storage as an option for your smartphone!

3D Batteries made from Cellulose – Smartphone and All-Electric Vehicles Battery life measured in years

I actually though this battery was going to be a bit impractical, as there would be no way to graft a metallic electrode unto an organic aerogel made from a natural organic polymer like cellulose. 

But again the research team from the KTH Royal Institute of Technology from Sweden and Stanford University in the USA has apparently figured out how to graft metallic conductors unto the organic aerogel, possibly by using vapor depositing to build up the electrode one layer at a time to connect with the previously vapour deposited Metallic salts.

To quote Dr. Max Hamedi, this was no problem, quote: “Three­dimensional, porous materials have been regarded as an obstacle to building electrodes. But we have proven that this is not a problem. In fact, this type of structure and material architecture allows flexibility and freedom in the design of batteries”.

This means that this aerogel battery based on cellulose can be used in applications where a high capacity battery is needed but with a lower weight and also taking up less space. Good examples include All-Electric Vehicles, Laptops, Smartphones, Tablets and yes, even in space exploration on the ISS (International Space Station).

The Sweden-based Mars One Program to put colonists on Mars reality-television style by 2045 may also benefit as noted in my blog article entitled “@MIT Study on Mars One - Why Staying Alive for 68 Days Eating Vegetables means Oxygen has a License to Kill”.

Such compressible batteries would reduce the weight of their payload while storing electrical energy to be used by the four (4) initial colonists.

More reason to save the trees, as potentially they can not only provide clean, bacteria free drinking water but herald the next-generation of high capacity 3D Compressible Batteries for smartphones, Tablets and All-Electric Vehicles that last for months and years instead of hours and days.

Or, a super-charged and flexible as a Serta Mattress, guaranteeing a shockingly good night’s rest!

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