Researchers Develop New Way to Turn Polymers into Battery Components Using Microwaves

Researchers at Purdue University, in collaboration with researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology and Tufts University, have developed a technique to turn polymers into components for batteries using microwave radiation.

“We use an ultrafast microwave irradiation process to turn PET, or polyethylene terephthalate, flakes into disodium terephthalate, and use that as battery anode material,” said Vilas Pol, an associate professor of chemical engineering at the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization.

The paper stated that with the aid of this ultrafast microwave irradiation process, they were able to produce disodium terephthalate waste PET flakes within 2 minutes. The explained that they tried the approach with both lithium-ion and sodium-ion battery cells.

Lithium-ion batteries are some of the most commonly used types of batteries used in electronic devices and vehicles. They are usually smaller, lighter, and more compact in size compared to alternatives like lead-acid or nickel-based batteries. They also require much lower maintenance compared to other types of batteries.

Sodium-ion battery cells, on the other hand, have been seeing a rise in popularity thanks to the fact that sodium is more widely and easily available compared to lithium. They work like lithium-ion batteries, but they do not use cobalt-based electrodes. Cobalt is also expensive, and its mining process has been shrouded by controversy in the past.

Recently, Japanese researchers announced the development of a new electrode material that could make lithium batteries cheaper, more stable, and capable of holding more charge for longer periods.  The research paper explained that while researchers have previously managed to improve the charge-holding capacity of lithium batteries, they have not been able to improve the amount of charge the batteries can disperse in a useful way.

Purdue University researchers have also come up with a new thermodynamic formula, which reveals that bifacial cells make the double-sided panels generate 15% to 20% more electricity than the conventional monofacial cells on one-sided solar modules. An increasing number of companies are now moving towards two-sided solar modules, which can convert sunlight reflected from the ground, and more electricity could be generated.