|Posted on October 6, 2015 at 5:00 PM|
There is a relentless demand for rechargeable batteries as portable electronics became a vital part of our daily life. Battery life and the number of charging cycles always has room for improvement, and increasing the battery capacity of electric cars is an important challenge for scientists. Additionally, while rechargeable batteries bring many benefits for technology, its fabrication requires extensive, environmentally harmful and unsustainable purification and preparation processes.
Mihri Ozkan, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and an active member of the center for nanoscale science and engineering at the University of California, Riverside, may have found a solution that could help all of the challenges described above. Where she found the solution is rather unusual...learning from Portobello mushrooms.
It turns out that the Portobello mushroom is a master of building hierarchal nanoporous networks that are a perfect template for building the anode of a rechargeable battery. The mushroom's structure is highly porous, which allows more space to store and transfer energy. The mushroom, according to Ozkan's recent publication in Scientific Reports, can change its structure from a ribbon-like microstructure to a hierarchically nanoporous carbon structure when heated up to 1100 degrees C. Ozkan and her research team found that the high concentration of potassium salts in the mushroom can activate more pores over time, increasing the battery's capacity: this means that, unlike conventional battery anodes whose capacity degrades over time, anodes made of Portobello mushroom may be able to increase its capacity over time. Lastly, replacing conventional anode materials, like graphite, with Portobello mushrooms would be favorable for environmentally friendly and economically viable production of the anode.
(Mihri Ozkan with Prof. Cengiz Ozkan, co-PI on the paper.)
Prof. Ozkan received the 2006 Army's Young Investigator Award, the distinguished engineering educator of the year award by the National Engineers' Council, and the 2005 Emerging Scholar Award by the American Association of University Women. She is the principal editor of the book titled "Micro-Nano Technologies for Genomics and Proteomics" by Springer, and she serves on the editorial boards for the Journal of Sensors and Actuators B and the Journal of Biomedical Microdevices.
(Mihri Ozkan’s work was featured on Conan O’Brien's talk show).
- Written by Eugene Choi, Edited by Paulette Clancy
(Photo credit: Provided by and used with permission from Mihri Ozkan).