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 11:42:03 AM
This new process apparently creates electronics grade silicon though, which is much purer than that obtained from sand/silica.
Creating electronics grade silicon is a much more involved and more expensive process, as it needs to be as pure as possible. If this new method can reduce the cost of obtaining that material by using waste rice husks, than that's pretty cool.
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