The introduction of lithium-ion batteries has been revolutionary for technology, which has led to major advancements in consumer goods for nearly all sectors. In fact, devices that receive power from battery have become ubiquitous worldwide. Meanwhile, the availability of technology has both pros and cons. While, it is a good thing on one end, its rapid growth has led to several ethical and environmental issues associated with the use of lithium-ion batteries.
Structurally, current lithium-ion batteries use significant amounts of cobalt. The mining of cobalt involves child labor in hazardous working conditions as documented in several international case studies. Besides this, only a small percentage of lithium ion batteries are recycled, thereby increasing the demand for cobalt and other such elements.
To address this, a research initiative undertaken by a team of researchers at the Texa A&M University has led to a breakthrough that could move away cobalt entirely from battery production. The researchers outline their initiative into a new battery technology platform completely free of metal. The platform uses a polypeptide organic radical construction.
“Importantly, the elimination of lithium and use of polypeptides – components of protein – it serves dual advantages. First, it avoids the need to mine precious metals, but opens opportunities to provide energy for implantable or wearable electronic devices, and to easily recycle new batteries,” stated one of the research associates. Beyond this, polypeptide batteries are recyclable, degradable, are non-toxic, and are safer in all ways.
These organic radical battery that are all-polypeptide comprise redox active amino acid macromolecules, and solve the problem of recyclability. The parts of this new battery platform can be broken down on demand in acidic conditions to produce amino acids.