Mushrooms never cease to amaze. They're one of the weirdest organisms on the planet, and we keep coming up with unexpected uses for them. Actually, some people think mushrooms aren't from this planet at all. Really.
Now comes word that researchers at Researchers at the University of California, Riverside Bourns College of Engineering have found yet another use for mushrooms - in batteries.
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The UC research team has developed a new kind of lithium-ion battery anode using portobello mushrooms, which could eventually replace the industry standard of synthetic graphite. Besides being less expensive and eco-friendlier, the mushrooms are potentially more efficient as well, thanks to their highly porous composition.
The development could have a fairly big impact in multiple industries, actually. We're likely to be using a lot more batteries in coming years, particularly in consumer electronics and electric vehicles. By using biological materials, we can bring down costs and expend less energy in the manufacturing process.
Synthetic graphite, on the other hand, has a relatively high manufacturing cost due to specific preparation and purification processes that can also be harmful to the environment, according to the research team.
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The mushroom anodes' porosity creates more space for the transfer of energy, which can improve battery performance. But even better, according to the UC team, mushroom anodes could actually result in batteries that increase in efficiency over time, due to the organic material's high potassium salt content.
"With battery materials like this, future cell phones may see an increase in run time after many uses, rather than a decrease, due to apparent activation of blind pores within the carbon architectures as the cell charges and discharges over time," says researcher Brennan Campbell in press materials accompanying the announcement.
Mushrooms are also, as a rule, more tasty than graphite. Everybody wins. The research findings were published today in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.