Researchers create lithium batteries from cow hair

Isbel Lázaro.

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Inspenet, October 6, 2023.

Researchers from Conicet and the National University of Córdoba (UNC) in Argentina managed to recover cow hair from a tannery and used them to develop more advanced and environmentally friendly lithium-sulfur batteries . This project was carried out with the support of YPF – Technologies (Y-TEC), the YPF subsidiary in collaboration with Conicet, and the resulting patent has been filed in the United States.

Victoria Bracamonte, Guillermina Luque and Andrea Calderón obtained a bag of cow hair from a known person who worked in a tannery. Their objective was to transform these hairs into biochars and together with the team from the Sustainable Energy Laboratory (LAES) of the National University of Córdoba (UNC), they strived to convert these wastes into the raw material necessary for the manufacture of lithium batteries. Next Generation.

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Cow hair constitutes the main waste generated by tanneries, so its conversion into raw material has great potential, especially in a country like Argentina. From each ton of processed cow skin, 85 kg of residual hair are obtained.

Batteries made from cow hair

Conventional batteries are composed of a graphite anode and a cobalt-nickel cathode, expensive, environmentally harmful and scarce materials. However, by choosing to use sulfur as a material for the cathode, the aim is not only to preserve the environment, but also to reduce the associated costs. To shape the cathode and create its structure, the use of biochars obtained from organic waste, such as cow hair, is considered.

Victoria Bracamonte, a Conicet researcher and professor at the UNC Faculty of Chemical Sciences (FCQ), played a fundamental role in washing and deodorizing the hair. These hairs were subjected to two cooking processes, reaching temperatures of up to 900 °Celsius and sulfur was added.

Next, a small, watch-like battery was assembled using a pure lithium anode. The results achieved, say the researchers, demonstrated excellent electrochemical performance. The support to carry out this project came from YPF – Technologies (Y-TEC), the subsidiary of YPF in collaboration with Conicet, which has already filed the patent for the project in the United States.

Conicet researcher Victoria Bracamonte said in a UNC statement that it was two years of hard work, with the pandemic in the middle. “The next steps are to scale production and connect the tannery and battery industries to generate a circular process. This is long term”.

For his part, Ezequiel Leiva, researcher at Conicet and UNC and member of Laes added: “These are batteries that could only be on the market within 10 years. They are a very different technology from the current one. Development and testing on an industrial scale will take time. In any case, they will not replace current batteries either. They are likely to coexist”.


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