A rust-killing invention brings us closer to long-lasting cell phone batteries

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

Only 10% of used handheld batteries, including mobile phones, are collected for recycling in Australia, which is low by international standards. The remaining 90% of batteries end up in landfills or are improperly disposed of, causing significant damage to the environment.

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

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

Leslie Yeo, distinguished professor of chemical engineering and lead senior scientist, said MXene is similar to graphene in its high electrical conductivity.

“Unlike graphene, MXenes are highly adaptable and open up many possible future technological applications,” said Yeo from RMIT’s School of Engineering.

A big challenge with MXene was that it corroded easily, inhibiting electrical conductivity and rendering it unusable, he said.

“To overcome this challenge, we discovered that sound waves at a certain frequency remove the rust from MXene and restore it to a near-original state,” Yeo said.

The team’s innovation could one day help 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 that it is used for commercially viable electronic parts,” said Yeo.

The study is published in Nature Communications.

How innovation works

One of the lead authors, PhD student Hossein Alijani, said the biggest challenge with MXene was rust that forms on its surface in humid environments or suspended in aqueous solutions.

“The surface oxide, which is rust, is difficult to remove, especially from this material, which is much, much thinner than a human hair,” said Alijani from RMIT’s School of Engineering.

“Current oxidation reduction methods rely on a chemical coating that limits the use of MXene in its natural form.

Want more breaking news?

Subscribe Technology networksA daily newsletter that delivers the latest science news straight to your inbox every day.

Subscribe for FREE

“In this work, we show that exposing an oxidized MXene film to high-frequency vibration for just one minute removes rust from the film. This simple procedure allows the electrical and electrochemical properties to be restored.

Teamwork customizations are available

The team says their work to remove rust from MXene opens the door to nanomaterials with potential applications in energy storage, sensors, wireless transmission, and environmental remediation.

Associate Professor Amgadas Rezkas, one of the lead senior researchers, said the ability to quickly restore oxidized materials to a near-pristine state is a game changer for the circular economy.

“Materials used in electronics, including batteries, typically deteriorate after two to three years of use due to the formation of rust,” said Rezka from RMIT’s School of Engineering.

“Using our method, we can extend the life of battery components up to three times.

Further steps

While the innovation is promising, the team needs to work with industry to integrate their acoustic device into existing manufacturing systems and processes.

The team is also investigating the use of their invention to remove oxide layers from other materials for sensing and renewable energy applications.

“We want to work with industry partners to scale up our rust removal method,” Yeo said.

Link: Ahmed H, Alijani H, El-Ghazaly A, et al. Regeneration of Oxidized Two-Dimensional MXenes Using High-Frequency Nanoscale Electromechanical Vibration. Nat Common. 2023;14(1):3. doi:10.1038/s41467-022-34699-3

This article has been republished from the material below. Note: Material may be edited for length and content. Please contact the source for more information.

Leave a Comment