Soot and shroom power
Candle soot to drive next-gen electric cars?
German company Bosch predicts the world will see 15% of all new vehicles having an electrical powertrain by 2025 and is investing €400 million a year in electromobility.
Their quest is to create a battery that will give 50 kilowatt hours and weigh about 190 kg. To put this in perspective, the average lead battery in today’s cars weighs about 20 kg and makes only 0,5 kilowatt hours.
A recent study shows carbon from burning a candle could be all it takes to make an inexpensive but powerful electric car battery, according to new research published in Electrochimica Acta.
The research reveals that candle soot could be used to power the kind of lithium ion battery used in plug-in electric cars.
The authors of the study, from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Hyderabad, India, say their discovery opens up the possibilities to use carbon in more powerful batteries, driving down the costs of portable power.
Lithium ion batteries power many devices, from smartphones and digital cameras all the way up to cars and even aircraft.
The batteries work by having two electrically charged materials suspended in a liquid to produce a current. Carbon is used as one of those materials in smaller batteries, but for bigger, more powerful batteries — such as those used in electric cars — carbon is not suitable because of its structure, which cannot produce the required current density.
In the new study, Dr Chandra Sharma and Dr Manohar Kakunuri found that because of the shape and configuration of the tiny carbon nanoparticles, the carbon in candle soot is suitable for use in bigger batteries. What’s more, because the soot could be produced quickly and easily, it is a scalable approach to making batteries.
“If you put a water droplet on candle soot it rolls off — that’s an observation that’s been made in the last few years. The material candle soot is made of, carbon, also has electric potential. So why not use it as an electrode?” asked Sharma, author of the study. “We looked into it and saw it also shows some exceptional electrochemical properties, so we decided to test it further.”
When a candle burns, it gives off clouds of black soot made of carbon.
The researchers looked at the soot collected from the tip of a candle flame and from the middle of the flame and compared the size, shape and structure of the carbon.
The results showed that the burning process forms nanoparticles of carbon that are 30 to 40 nanometres across and are joined together in an interconnected network. They also found that the soot recovered from the tip of a candle flame, which burns at 1 400° C, has fewer impurities like wax, making it perform better as an electrical conductor.
Their analyses show the shape and size of the carbon nanoparticles from soot, and the way they are joined together, makes soot an effective conducting material, with a high cyclic charge-discharge (CCD).
The researchers says the technology is efficient and cost-effective. It is also scalable. They now plan to develop a candle soot battery to test the technology further. They are also planning to test hybrid materials that contain candle soot to see if they can make it an even better material for batteries. — Wheels Reporter.
Artist Steve Spazuk uses fumage, a technique developed in the thirties to create images using soot from a candle or kerosene lamp. Now the soot can make better lithium batteries.