Published on December 1st, 2009 | by Jennifer Lance


Flexible, Thin Batteries Made from Algae

Algae is largely considered a nuisance and a sign of environmental degradation; however, it is also offering climate change solutions.  First fuel, and now “paper-thin” batteries have been made  from algae. Researchers have found Cladophora created cellulose promising for developing “thin, flexible, lightweight, inexpensive, environmentally friendly batteries made entirely from nonmetal parts”.

Photo by superfantasticResearchers create paper-thin batteries from algae.

Researchers create paper-thin batteries from algae.

Nanotechnologists at Uppsala University in Sweden have discovered that algae cellulose has 100 times the surface area of paper cellulose making it suitable for battery production. The paper-thin algae battery is made by layering extraordinarily minute layers of conducting polymer and algae cellulose fibers.  The results are a battery that charges faster than traditional batteries (eight seconds) and holds more energy.  Researchers state the batteries are “very easy to make”.

Scientists are looking at new uses for paper-thin batteries.  LiveScience reports:

“We have long hoped to find some sort of constructive use for the material from algae blooms and have now been shown this to be possible,” said researcher Maria Strømme, a nanotechnologist at Uppsala University in Sweden. “This creates new possibilities for large-scale production of environmentally friendly, cost-effective, lightweight energy storage systems…We’re not focused on replacing lithium ion batteries — we want to find new applications where batteries are not used today…What if you could put batteries inside wallpaper to charge sensors in your home? If you could put this into clothes, can you couple that with detectors to analyze sweat from your body to tell if there’s anything wrong?”

Cladophora is an algae with a bad reputation around lakes and beaches.  It is responsible for high phosphorus and is largely a result of lawn fertilizers, septic systems, agricultural runoff, etc.  The Great Lakes have seen a resurgence in cladophora blooms, which seem to be compounded by warmer water temperatures.

Climate change is certainly creating warmer waters with increased algae blooms. Green energy solutions from this problem is an exciting development.  Thinking of possible uses of paper-thin batteries made from algae will change the way we live in the future.

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