Pollens, the bane of allergy sufferers, could represent a boon for battery makers: Recent research has suggested their potential use as anodes in lithium-ion batteries. "Our findings have demonstrated that renewable pollens could produce carbon architectures for anode applications in energy storage devices," said Vilas Pol, Ph.D., an Associate Professor in the School of Chemical Engineering and the School of Materials Engineering at Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana. Batteries have two electrodes, an anode and a cathode. The anodes in most of today's lithium-ion batteries are made of graphite. Lithium ions are contained in a liquid called an electrolyte, and these ions are stored in the anode during recharging. The Purdue researchers tested bee-pollen-derived and cattail-pollen-derived carbons as anodes. "Both are abundantly available," said Dr. Pol, who worked with doctoral student Jialiang Tang. "The bottom line here is we want to learn something from nature that could be useful in creating better batteries with renewable feedstock." The new research findings are detailed in an open-access article that was published online on February 5 in Scientific Reports. The article is titled “From Allergens to Battery Anodes: Nature-Inspired, Pollen Derived Carbon Architectures for Room- and Elevated-Temperature Li-Ion Storage." While bee pollen is a mixture of different pollen types collected by honey bees, the cattail pollens all have the same shape. "I started looking into pollens when my mom told me she had developed pollen allergy symptoms about two years ago," Ms. Tang said. "I was fascinated by the beauty and diversity of pollen microstructures. But the idea of using them as battery anodes did not really kick in until I started working on battery research and learned more about carbonization of biomass."
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