Making Electric Vehicles that Reduce Carbon

An interdisciplinary team, including 32 year ECS member Stuart Licht and ECS student member Matthew Lefler, has developed a way to make electric vehicles that are not only carbon neutral, but carbon negative – capable of reducing the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide as they operate by transforming the greenhouse gas.

By replacing the graphite electrodes that are currently being used in the development of lithium-ion batteries for electric cars with carbon materials recovered from the atmosphere, the researchers have been able to develop a recipe for converting collected carbon dioxide into batteries.

This from Vanderbilt University:

The team adapted a solar-powered process that converts carbon dioxide into carbon so that it produces carbon nanotubes and demonstrated that the nanotubes can be incorporated into both lithium-ion batteries like those used in electric vehicles and electronic devices and low-cost sodium-ion batteries under development for large-scale applications, such as the electric grid.

Read the full article.

The research is not the first time scientists have shown progress in collecting and converting harmful greenhouse gases from the environment.

Typically, carbon dioxide conversion revolves around transforming the gas into low-value fuels such as methanol. These conversions often do not justify the costs.

(MORE: Read “Carbon Nanotubes Produced from Ambient Carbon Dioxide for Environmentally Sustainable Lithium-Ion and Sodium-Ion Battery Anodes.“)

However, the new process produces better batteries that are not only expected to be efficient, but also cost effective.

The project builds on solar thermal electrochemical process (STEP), a development by the Licht group.

“Our climate change solution is twofold: (1) to transform the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into valuable products and (2) to provide greenhouse gas emission-free alternatives to today’s industrial and transportation fossil fuel processes,” Licht said. “In addition to better batteries other applications for the carbon nanotubes include carbon composites for strong, lightweight construction materials, sports equipment and car, truck and airplane bodies.”

Through joining forces with a lab that focuses on carbon nanomaterials in battery applications, Licht and his researchers were able to prove that multi-walled carbon nanotubes produced by the process can serve as the positive electrode in both lithium-ion and sodium-ion batteries.

“Imagine a world where every new electric vehicle or grid-scale battery installation would not only enable us to overcome the environmental sins of our past, but also provide a step toward a sustainable future for our children,” said Cary Pint, co-author of the research. “Our efforts have shown a path to achieve such a future.”

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