A carbon compound derived from seaweed might help improve the batteries you’ll be using in the coming years while doing less to harm the environment, researchers reported Wednesday.
Carbon-based compounds are the focus of extensive research into energy storage, where a breakthrough could make renewable energy sources like solar and wind power more consistent. Much of the focus has been on compounds such as graphene, a relatively new material with a strong ability to conduct electricity.
But Dongjiang Yang, a chemist at China’s Qingdao University, said the structure of that oceanic algae can be combined with metal to provide a better material — and one that can be produced sustainably.
"We wanted to produce carbon-based materials via a really 'green' pathway,” Yang said in a statement announcing the discovery. “Given the renewability of seaweed, we chose seaweed extract as a precursor and template to synthesize hierarchical porous carbon materials."
Yang worked with a team drawn from Qingdao, from his old job at Australia’s Griffith University and the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico to produce cobalt-alginate nanofibers with a durable structure similar to an egg box. That fiber can be used to boost the performance of batteries and capacitors — electrical devices that store and release power in many electronic devices.