In some good news out of Russia, researchers from the National University of Science and Technology  (NUST MISiS) — along with colleagues from the US and Mexico — have developed a new technology for producing cost-effective batteries from medical waste.

In study published in the Journal of Energy Storage, the researchers said that during the coronavirus pandemic people on the planet started using more than 130 billion masks every month – which turn into hundreds of tonnes of polymer waste.

But the scientists have developed a new technology for producing cost-effective batteries from used masks – all that needs to be procured is graphene.

Here’s the technical low-down

Professor Anvar Zakhidov, scientific director of the extremely long-windedly named infrastructure project ‘High-Performance, Flexible, Photovoltaic Devices Based in Hybrid Perovskites’ at NUST MISiS described the process in detail.

“To create a battery of the supercapacitor type, the following algorithm is used: first the masks are disinfected with ultrasound, then dipped in ‘ink’ made of graphene, which saturates the mask,” he said.

“Then the material is pressed under pressure and heated to 140°C (conventional supercapacitor batteries require very high temperatures for pyrolysis-carbonation, up to 1000-1300°C, while the new technology reduces energy consumption by a factor of 10).

“A separator (also made of mask material) with insulating properties is then placed between the two electrodes made of the new material.

“It is saturated with a special electrolyte, and then a protective shell is created from the material of medical blister packs (such as paracetamol).”

EV batteries and solar power stations the next step

The new technology enables the production of thin, flexible, low-cost batteries that are also disposable.

They are superior in several ways to heavier, metal-coated conventional batteries, which require more manufacturing costs and can be used in household appliances from clocks to lamps.

Compared to traditional accumulators, the new batteries have a high density of stored energy and electrical capacity.

Previously, pellet batteries created using a similar technology had a capacity of 10 watt-hours per 1kg, but the NUST MISIS scientists and their US/Mexican colleagues have managed to achieve 98 watt-hours/kg.

In the future, the scientific team plans to apply the new technology for the production of batteries for electric cars, solar power stations and other applications.