Chemists create vitamin-driven battery

Chemists create vitamin-driven battery
Dwight Seferos, holding the nickel-sized prototype, hopes the team's breakthrough could lay the groundwork for metal-free batteries to support the next wave of consumer electronics (photo by Diana Tyszko)

Scientist’s Team from the University of Toronto have developed a battery that stores energy in a biologically derived unit. In another word, it’s a vitamin-driven battery. This is like easily available high energy lithium ion battery. But it has one unique difference that it uses flavin from vitamin B2 as the cathode.

Dwight Seferos, said, “We’ve been looking to nature for a while to find complex molecules for use in a number of consumer electronics applications. When you take something made by nature that is already complex, you end up spending less time making new material.” Dwight is an associate professor in U of T’s Department of Chemistry and Canada Research Chair in Polymer Nanotechnology.

Generally, a modern battery contains three basic parts: positive terminal, a negative terminal, and an electrolyte solution. When the battery connected to any device which requires power, electrons flow from the anode. The negatively charged electrode of the device supplying current- out to the device, then into the cathode and ions migrate through the electrolyte solution to balance the charge. When it connects to the charger, this process happens in reverse.

The reaction in the anode generates and the reaction in the cathode absorbs them when discharging. The remaining product is electricity. The process of producing electricity continuously goes on until electrodes fails of the substance essential for reactions to occur.

The battery uses bio-derived polymers for one of the electrodes. This allows battery energy to be stored in vitamin-created plastic.

Tyler Schon, “Getting the right material evolved over time and definitely took some test reactions. In a lot of ways, it looked like this could have failed. It definitely took a lot of perseverance.”

Although, B2 can accept more than two electrodes at the same time. Thus, it makes it easy to take multiple charges and have a high capacity. With the ability to get reduced and oxidized, it being well-suited for lithium-ion batteries.

The team developed a material from vitamin B2 that begins in genetically modified fungi. They just used a semi-artificial process to prepare the polymer by linking two flavin units to a long-chain molecule backbone. This allows green batteries to have high capacity and voltage.

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Seferos said, “It’s a pretty safe, natural compound. If you wanted to, you could actually eat the source material it comes from.”

“It’s been a lot of trial-and-error. Now we’re looking to design new variants that can be recharged again and again,” said Schon.

The team hopes that their research could lay the groundwork for powerful, thin, flexible, and even transparent metal-free batteries that could support the next wave of consumer electronics.