Paving the way for cheaper consumer electronics that are easier on the environment, researchers have created a battery that uses a compound from vitamin B2 as the cathode — the part that stores the electricity that is released when connected to a device.
“We’ve been looking to nature for a while to find complex molecules for use in a number of consumer electronics applications,” said Dwight Seferos, Associate professor at University of Toronto.
“When you take something made by nature that is already complex, you end up spending less time making new material,” Seferos said.
While bio-derived battery parts have been created previously, this is the first one that uses bio-derived polymers – long-chain molecules – for one of the electrodes, essentially allowing battery energy to be stored in a vitamin-created plastic, instead of costlier, harder to process, and more environmentally-harmful metals such as cobalt, the study said.
The researchers developed the material while testing a variety of long-chain polymers.
The team created the material from vitamin B2 that originates in genetically-modified fungi using a semi-synthetic process to prepare the polymer by linking two flavin units to a long-chain molecule backbone.
This allows for a green battery with high capacity and high voltage – something increasingly important as the ‘Internet of Things’ continues to link us together more and more through our battery-powered portable devices, said the study published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.
“It’s a pretty safe, natural compound,” Seferos said.
“If you wanted to, you could actually eat the source material it comes from,” Seferos added.
Vitamin B2’s ability to be reduced and oxidised makes it well-suited for a lithium ion battery that are used in smartphones and laptops, the study said.