Can garden herbs improve your car battery?
The last place you'd expect to find garden herbs is in your car battery. But at least one, Rubia, can make car batteries more energy efficient, studies find.
However you choose to enjoy herbal products, the last place you'd expect to find them is in your electric car battery.Skip to next paragraph
Are electric cars money savers? Depends where you live.
Electric vehicles tapped for national parks
US sales of Honda Accord hybrid hampered by short supply
GM executives for communications and HR step down amid recall crisis
A self-driving car for $4,000? College student says it can be done
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Thanks to a new discovery though, the Madder plant, also known as Rubia, could prove useful as a natural cathode in batteries.
Madder has long been used as a source of purpurin, an organic dye used since ancient times to color fabrics.
Unlike many other future battery technologies, this one isn't aimed at improving charging time, increasing capacity or reducing weight--it's simply tasked with making batteries greener.
While the battery toxicity and rare earth metal arguments from electric car naysayers are often exaggerated, finding a renewable alternative to lithium and cobalt cathodes certainly couldn't hurt.
“Green batteries are the need of the hour, yet this topic hasn’t really been addressed properly,” suggests Arava Leela Mohana Reddy, author of the study.
"[Lithium-ion batteries aren't] environmentally friendly. They use cathodes of lithium cobalt oxide, which are very expensive. You have to mine the cobalt metal and manufacture the cathodes in a high-temperature environment. There are a lot of costs."
While current lithium-ion batteries are recycled and reused in huge numbers (and lead-acid batteries are the world's most recycled product), Reddy also explains that extracting the cobalt from batteries, during the recycling process, is quite energy-intensive.
The discovery that purpurin was a suitable alternative came during testing different organic molecules for their ability to interact with lithium ions.
Purpurin turned out to be most suitable. 20 percent carbon is added to increase conductivity, and the cathodes can even be made at room temperature. Better still, some of the purpurin used in future could be harvested from agricultural waste.
In addition to the organic cathodes, the team is working on finding organic materials suitable for anodes, and an electrolyte that doesn't break the molecules down. A working prototype of a completely organic battery could be completed in only a few years.
As with other battery technologies, we await the team's results with interest. It's good to see that, in addition to improving a battery's performance, work is still being done to make them greener, too.
The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best auto bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. To add or view a comment on a guest blog, please go to the blogger's own site by clicking on the link in the blog description box above.