Snap! Could crabs make EV batteries more sustainable?

Scientists say a chemical found in crab and lobster shells could help with EV recycling

Net Hero Podcast

You cannot teach a crab to walk straight, but you can possibly make it charge your electric vehicle in a greener way.

Professor Liangbing Hu, Director of the University of Maryland’s Center for Materials Innovation and the lead author of a study published in the journal Matter tells future Net Zero how EV batteries could benefit from crabs, shrimps and lobsters’ shells.

Professor Hu says chitin, a material that makes crab, shrimp and lobster shells hard, can be processed in laboratories and used as an electrolyte for a battery.

He said: “From crustacean shells, we can extract chitin and chitosan, a kind of polysaccharide. After a chemical treatment, we can get a chitosan-based electrolyte, which can facilitate the formation of a favourable Zn deposition morphology, besides a high Zn2+conductivity and high mechanical strength, all of which enable zinc-ion batteries with outstandingly high-rate performance and long-term cycling stability.”

The research could potentially make battery recycling more sustainable. A test battery which utilises lobster shells’ chitin proved to be 99.7% energy efficient even after 1,000 cycles.

This means that the battery can be quickly charged, reducing the need for discharge.

He said: “Generally, conventional batteries use non-biodegradable materials, which is harmful to the environment.

“So, in this work, we used this kind of biomaterial-based batteries to address the environmental issue from the consuming and discarding of batteries. We hope this work can attract more scientists’ attention to the evaluation of biodegradability of batteries.”

When could chitin batteries hit the market?

The Professor concluded: “Much effort is still required to put on the optimisation of overall performance (that the market needs), environmental impact (materials itself and the process of material synthesis) and costs.”

But he believed it would not be too long for commercial products.