New battery may help cut carbon emissions

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a new battery made partly from carbon dioxide captured from power plants. While still based on early-stage research and far from commercial deployment, this battery could continuously convert carbon dioxide into a solid mineral carbonate as it discharges, said the study published in the journal Joule.

The researchers believe that the new battery formulation could help reduce the emission of the greenhouse gas into the atmosphere.

The battery is made from lithium metal, carbon and a novel electrolyte.

In lithium–carbon-dioxide batteries, which use the gas as a reactant during discharge, the low reactivity of carbon dioxide has typically required the use of metal catalysts.

These remain expensive, poorly understood, and the reactions are difficult to control.

By incorporating the gas in a liquid state, however, Betar Gallant, Assistant Professor at MIT, and her coworkers found a way to achieve electrochemical carbon dioxide conversion using only a carbon electrode.

The key is to pre-activate the carbon dioxide by incorporating it into an amine solution, the study said.

“ Aqueous amines and non-aqueous battery electrolytes are not normally used together, but we found their combination imparts new and interesting behaviours that can increase the discharge voltage and allow for sustained conversion,” Dr Gallant added.

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