The latest invention in the field of energy storage comes from a team of engineers at Colorado Boulder University. They managed to find a way to produce an electrode for lithium- ion batteries by using the wastewater, which is thrown out during beer making.
The secret is hidden in the amount of sugar that this wastewater contains. It creates the perfect environment for growing a special type of fungi, called Neurospora crassa. This fungus is fast-growing and it, in fact, acts as the carbon based electrode. The materials are “bio- designed” right from the start.
The engineers claim that this electrode is one of the most efficient electrodes for lithium-ion batteries that has been produced naturally. The methodology and data that back up this statement can be found in the American Chemical Society journal Applied Materials & Interfaces.
Because everything that is required to produce the electrode is already there, the inventors say they can easily upscale the process to commercial scale. In fact, they have already initiated a massive pilot program, together with Avery Brewing in Boulder.
The benefits here are many for all parties involved. The beer-makers were able to reduce the waste that goes to sewers, without having to change anything in their processing chains. They simply had to deliver the sugar-rich water to the scientists. Similarly, the scientists had easy access to the perfect medium, where they can grow their fungua. This also allowed them to gain full control over the chemical and physical processes that occur during the growth of the fungi.
The benefits for us, as potential users of the new electrodes and direct users of the environment, are also great. Less wastewater, less toxic batteries, possibly lower price of Li-ion batteries, and hopefully lower price of beer.
Image (c) Colorado Boulder University