South Korean Researchers Turn Rice Husks Into Silicon Battery Anodes
July 16, 2013 7:27 PM
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Process could help to turn 80 million tons of trash into a valuable commodity
Rice is a staple crop of much of the world, but it's also a
big waste generator
. On average 20 percent of rice by weight is discarded. These dry, inedible husks are estimated to account for 80 million metric tons a year (out of a current annual rice yield of 422 million metric tons).
Tough and abrasive, the husks (also known as hulls) could only be used in low-cost materials such as fertilizer additives or bed soil. But
South Korean researchers
think they've devised a way to cut down on the amount of agricultural waste from rice farming, by transforming the husks into a more expensive finished product.
A team at the
Chungnam National University
has extracted silica from the silicon-rich husks to convert into silicon for battery anodes.
While nearly identical to sand from a molecular standpoint, rice silicon is deposited by the plant in porous nanolayers as a defense against insects and fungi. That means that to extract the valuable material, researchers had to use a multi-step process involving acid and heat treatment.
Rice hulls can make great anodes, with a bit of TLC, it turns out [Image Source: Melvin Pereira]
However, the process appears to pay off, yielding high-grade electronics ready silicon. The resulting yield is reportedly
especially desirable for battery anodes
due to its electrochemical characteristics.
The research team has
[abstract] their processing breakthrough in the prestigious peer-review journal, the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Herald Sun News
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RE: Wait, what?
7/17/2013 10:02:34 AM
If we're being snarky here, I suppose I should point out that aluminum is also pretty much everywhere. Nearly every rock you look at is composed largely of silica and/or alumina. Aluminum is relatively expensive because of the large amount of power used during its production.
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