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Bamboo-inspired batteries

By David, 12 August 2021 News

Gloved hand holding a thin sheet with tweezers over a bowl of liquid.

This membrane might be the key to better batteries
Image: Queensland University of Technology

There’s an awful lot going on inside a battery, and it relies on chemicals moving around and reacting. Now, Queensland scientists have created a new way to help these moving chemicals get where they need to go. And it’s based on a fast-growing plant – bamboo!

Professor Ziqi Sun was inspired when he walked past a clump of bamboo in the Brisbane City Botanic Gardens. Bamboo is famous for growing fast, with some species able to gain 90 centimetres in one day. Ziqi realised that to grow that fast, a bamboo plant needs to move nutrients around very quickly.

Inside the stem of a bamboo plant there is a thin sheet of material, which is a type of membrane. This sheet is made of many layers. On one side of the membrane, the layers are extremely close together, and on the other side they are further apart. This membrane might be the secret to bamboo’s fast growth.

A team of researchers mimicked this bamboo structure to create membranes for batteries. The materials are different, but the battery membranes have many layers like the bamboo.

On one side of the battery membranes, the layers are packed close together, less than 5 nanometres apart. These close layers move electrically charged chemicals superfast.

On the other side, the layers are hundreds of times further apart, but you still couldn’t fit a hair between them. These widely spaced layers are easy to wet and are good at spreading and mixing chemicals.

So what’s the result? When the team tried out their membranes in tests, the batteries had higher capacities, longer lifetimes, and faster recharge rates. So it’s possible future batteries might include bamboo based technology!

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