SPS and BioSciences researchers showcase the green future of batteries

Folkestone Triennial artwork highlights the potential of mushrooms for sustainable batteries

University of Kent researchers Sofia Villar-Perez from the School of Physical Science’s Functional Materials Group (FMG) and Misty Peterson and Viktorija Makarovaite from BioScienes Kent Fungal Group (KFG) helped showcase the green future of batteries at Folkestone Triennial 2017, a Creative Foundation project.

The Creative Foundation approached the University of Kent, and specifically the KFG, to help on the Nomeda and Gediminas Urbonas artwork ‘Folke Stone Power Plant’ for Folkestone Triennial.

This project bridged the divide between art and science, with both equally represented in the ‘Folke Stone’ artwork in order to engage the community in discussion about renewable energy. It symbolises how the environmental impacts of CO2 emission from fossil fuels dominate rapid growth of global energy consumption and highlights the critical need for clean and higher energy storage devices to meet the energy demand.

The “stone” sits in front of Folkestone Museum and contains innovative organic batteries storing electricity capable of powering the adjacent lamp-post.  The design of sustainable battery systems, through the choice of both raw materials based on abundance and electrode recycling, are essential for the next generation of batteries. The cutting-edge research into sustainable energy is being supported by the team at Kent, as well as a wider network of scientists at universities in several countries.







Fig 2. ‘Folke Stone’ art piece by Nomeda and Gediminas Urbonas and the first working prototype of the mushroom battery inside the art piece.

Previous research from the University of California Riverside (DOI: 10.1038/srep14575) revealed one remarkable aspect of mushroom biomass anodes which suggested that portobello mushrooms (A. bisporus) are ideal candidates for graphite replacement within lithium ion batteries. This is because as mushroom skin anodes are cycled (charged and discharged) for more than 200 cycles, the batteries capacity seems to actually increase over time. This is the complete opposite of what was expected and has been seen within other organic biomass electrode research.

The Kent Research team improved upon the published data to produce a functional battery that produces a capacity above 300mAh/g within 100 cycles (Figure 3). This also allowed them to further the research by utilising the mushroom biomass in a ‘slurry’ preparation as a replacement for graphite slurries on conductive foil (as commonly seen in cellular phone batteries).

Fig 3. Mushroom anode capacity change over 100 (skin) and 40 (Slurry) cycles.

The mushroom slurry work is still early in research, yet even this shows great potential as a replacement for graphite as it exhibited a capacity of above 200mAh/g for the 40 cycles tested (Figure 3). Unlike most organic biomass materials tested, portobello mushrooms are a highly microporous structures able to transform the conventional Li-ion battery into a low-cost and environmentally friendly system with comparable capacities to graphite. In our journey into a more sustainable future, organic biomass electrodes will provide an easily renewable source of biomaterials for making higher capacity storage units.