Recyclable mobile phone batteries are a step closer with rust-busting invention


Experimental setup and characterization of materials. A, C Above, and, (B, D) side-view schematics of the experimental setup in which a 5 µm thick oxidized Ti3C2Tz MXene movie (a scanning electron microscopy (SEM) image shown in (E)) is placed on top of the SRBW (surface reflected bulk wave) resonator, which includes a chip-scale single-crystal LiNBO3 piezoelectric substrate, shown in (F). In (C, D), the SRBW – generated by applying a sinusoidal electrical signal from a radio frequency (RF) source to interdigital transducer (IDT) electrodes photolithographically deposited on the LiNbO3 substrate – propagates along and through the substrate and is transferred to the Ti3C2Tz MXene film through a thin water coupling layer. In the control experiment (A, B), the SRBW is not enthusiastic. G Powder X-ray diffraction (XRD), and, (H) Raman spectra of the pristine, control (oxidized), and SRBW-irradiated films MXenes at different powers. Credit: Nature communication (2023). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-34699-3

Mobile phone batteries with lifespans up to three times longer than current technology could become a reality thanks to an innovation led by engineers at RMIT University.

Instead of throwing batteries away after two or three years, we could have recyclable batteries that last up to nine years, the team says, by using high-frequency sound waves to remove rust that hinders battery performance.

The research has been published in Nature communication.

Only 10% of used hand batteries, including mobile phone batteries, are collected for recycling in Australia, which is low by international standards. The remaining 90% of batteries end up in landfills or are disposed of incorrectly, causing significant environmental damage.

The high cost of recycling lithium and other materials from batteries is a major barrier to reusing these items, but the team’s innovation could help meet this challenge.

The team is working with a nanomaterial called MXene, a class of material that they say promises to be an exciting alternative to lithium for batteries in the future.

Leslie Yeo, Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering from RMIT’s School of Engineering and Senior Senior Researcher, said MXene was similar to graphene with high electrical conductivity.

“Unlike graphene, MXenes are highly adaptable and open up a whole range of possible technology applications in the future,” said Yeo.

The major challenge of using MXene was that it rusted easily, hindering its electrical conductivity and making it unusable. to its original state.”

The team’s innovation could one day help to revive MXene batteries every few years, extending their lifespan by up to three times, he said.

“The ability to extend the shelf life of MXene is critical to ensuring it can be used for commercially viable electronic components,” said Yeo.

Recyclable mobile phone batteries one step closer with an invention to break through rust

Hossein Alijani, a Ph.D. researcher, with the new rust removal device. Credit: RMIT University

How the innovation works

Co-lead author Hossein Alijani, a Ph.D. candidate from RMIT’s School of Engineering, said the biggest challenge in using MXene was the rust that forms on the surface in a humid environment or when suspended in aqueous solutions.

“Surface oxide, which is rust, is difficult to remove, especially from this material, which is much, much thinner than a human hair,” Alijani said. “Current methods used to reduce oxidation depend on the chemical coating of the material, which limits the use of MXene in its native form. In this work, we show that exposing an oxidized MXene film to high-frequency vibrations for just one minute removes the rust on the film. With this simple procedure, electrical and electrochemical performance can be restored.”

The possible applications of the team’s work

The team says their work to remove rust from Mxene opens the door for the nanomaterial to be used in a wide variety of applications in energy storage, sensors, wireless transmission and environmental restoration.

Associate Professor Amgad Rezk of RMIT’s School of Engineering, one of the leading senior researchers, said the ability to quickly restore oxidized materials to a near-pristine state represented a game changer in terms of the circular economy.

“Materials used in electronics, including batteries, generally deteriorate after two or three years of use due to rusting,” Rezk said. “With our method, we can extend the life of battery components by up to three times.”

While the innovation is promising, the team needs to work with industry to integrate its acoustic device into existing manufacturing systems and processes. The team is also exploring using their invention to remove oxide layers from other materials for sensing and renewable energy applications.

“We are eager to work with industrial partners so that our rust removal method can be scaled up,” said Yeo.

More information:
Heba Ahmed et al, Recovery of oxidized two-dimensional MXenes by nanoscale high-frequency electromechanical vibrations, Nature communication (2023). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-34699-3

Offered by RMIT University

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