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Rice Husks Recycled For Use In High-Capacity Lithium Batteries

Korean researchers have demonstrated that rice husks can be recycled to produce nano-porous silicon for use in high-capacity lithium batteries.

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Asian Scientist (Jul. 10, 2013) – Korean researchers have demonstrated that rice husks, a major by-product in rice harvest, can be used to produce nano-porous silicon for use in high-capacity lithium-ion batteries.

The rice husk is the outer covering of a rice kernel that protects it from attack by insects and bacteria. Because it is removed during the harvesting of rice, over 100 million tons of rice husks are produced annually worldwide. Although efforts have been made to recycle rice husks for other uses, these have been limited to low-value agricultural applications.

Now, in a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Korean researchers have described how they took advantage of the unique characteristics of rice husks to produce high-capacity anodes for lithium-ion batteries.

The researchers found that rice husks have unique nano-porous silica (silicon dioxide) layers. These layers, found in the outer shell of the husk, likely evolved because of the need to protect the inner ingredients of the rice kernel while allowing air and moisture to pass through.

Because silicon has high electrical capacity, it is thought to be an ideal material for making lithium-ion battery anodes. An anode is an electrode through which electric current flows into a polarized electrical device like a battery. Silicon has a theoretical capacity that is 10 times higher than that of conventional graphite anodes.
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