Analytical and Laboratory

Recycled Rubber Finds Use in Lithium-ion Batteries

15 September 2014

Recycled tires could see new life in lithium-ion batteries that provide power to plug-in electric vehicles and store energy produced by wind and solar, say researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

By modifying the microstructural characteristics of carbon black, a substance recovered from discarded tires, a team led by Parans Paranthaman and Amit Naskar is developing what they say is an improved anode for lithium-ion batteries. An anode is a negatively charged electrode used as a host for storing lithium during charging.

The method, outlined in a paper published in the journal RSC Advances offers advantages over conventional approaches to making anodes for lithium-ion batteries, the researchers say.

The Oak Ridge technique uses a proprietary pretreatment to recover pyrolytic carbon black material, which is similar to graphite but man-made. When used in anodes of lithium-ion batteries, researchers produced a small, laboratory-scale battery with a reversible capacity that they say is higher than what is possible with commercial graphite materials.

After 100 cycles the capacity measures nearly 390 milliamp hours per gram of carbon anode, which the research team says exceeds the best properties of commercial graphite. They attribute this to the unique microstructure of the tire-derived carbon.

“This kind of performance is highly encouraging, especially in light of the fact that the global battery market for vehicles and military applications is approaching $78 billion and the materials market is expected to hit $11 billion in 2018,” Paranthaman says.

Anodes are one of the leading battery components, with 11-15% of the materials market share, says Naskar.

“This technology addresses the need to develop an inexpensive, environmentally benign carbon composite anode material with high-surface area, higher-rate capability and long-term stability,” Naskar says.

The Oak Ridge laboratory plans to work with U.S. industry to license this technology and produce lithium-ion cells for automobile, stationary storage, medical and military applications. Other potential uses include water filtration, gas sorption and storage.



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