Mother Nature has always given a lot to us. She still has a lot of gifts hidden in her lap. Some of her gifts are complex to use but can be very useful when known how to use productively. Sources like sunlight, wind, hydro sources, etc. are the most known and useful gifts we have received. There are many more powerful things hiding in there such as antibiotics from the guts of a tiny worm to robots inspired by bats.
We have developed technologies to use renewable sources in the most productive way we know. However, the setup of the equipment to use can often end up being a pain. A team led by Hongli Zhu, an assistant professor of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering at Northeastern University has taken the initiative to find ways to use renewable sources of energy in the most cost-efficient as well as productive way. She has come up with the idea of using unique nanomaterials that are derived from cellulose in order to improve the large and expensive kind of batteries needed to store renewable energy derived from sources such as sunlight and the wind.
Cellulose is an organic compound found abundantly in the plants. Using its molecular structures, batteries can be improved, plastic pollution can be reduced, and a sort of electrical grid that can support the entire community with renewable energy can be developed. Substance like polymers that are obtained from the plants too, is used to replace plastic. Renewable energy is stored in batteries called flow batteries and the cost of making a flow battery is quite high. Cellulose can be used to increase the capacity of the batteries, making them less expensive as it increases the storage capacity of the battery.
Manufacturing of flow batteries is time-consuming as well as a long procedure that may fail sometimes. It requires huge tanks to store negatively charged ions and positively charged ions separately. It involves the movement of certain hardware that decays and mixes with the mixture making it useless. This hardware is known as membranes which are important for the manufacturing of flow batteries as they help in avoiding the mixing of the ions together. The cost of making the membrane available is quite high, resisting the use of flow batteries in large-grids.
Since cellulose such as algae, solid waste, and bacteria are easily available, the manufacturing of membrane from cellulose can be cost-effective and also long- lasting as compared to other membranes available in the market.
Nature has provided us with a lot of substitutes for the materials that are necessary for us in order to develop something new. It just requires the correct point of view to discover them as they are present in our back yard in the form of garbage and what not. Ideas can come from anywhere.