Cannabis-Based Batteries Could Change the Way We Store Energy

On top of its vast medicinal benefits and a “high” that’s safer and mellower than alcohol, what if cannabis could also power a cheap, sustainable super battery and forever change the energy game? It sounds like a far-fetched dream cooked up by Cheech and Chong after a bong rip or three, but it’s possible, according to a team of researchers at the University of Alberta.

During the American Chemical Society’s national meeting in San Francisco on Tuesday, engineering professor David Mitlin (who now works at Clarkson University in New York) presented the findings. The study he led investigates the potential for industrial hemp (the non-psychoactive cannabis plant closely related to marijuana) to aid in the creation of extremely efficient batteries called supercapacitors, or “supercaps.” By heating hemp fibers, the researchers were able to rearrange the plant’s carbon atoms to create thin, two-dimensional sheets, or nanosheets. Those nanosheets are then used as electrodes (electrical conductors) in the supercaps.

Prior research into supercaps broke ground using graphene, rather than hemp, to create the nanosheets with unmatched results for energy storage. Since then, scientists have been looking for ways to use “graphene’s unique properties to build better solar cells, water filtration systems, touch-screen technology, as well as batteries and supercapacitors. The problem is it’s expensive,” ACS reported in a press release.

The recent hemp study shows hemp to be more efficient than graphene, and 1,000 times cheaper, since hemp is fast-growing and relatively easy to process.

“Our device’s electrochemical performance is on par with or better than graphene-based devices,” Mitlin said in the ACS press release. “The key advantage is that our electrodes are made from biowaste using a simple process, and therefore, are much cheaper than graphene.”

– Read the entire article at AlterNet.