Nearly everyone appreciates the marvels of modern technology, but lots of people are concerned about the environmental and social costs involved with producing high-tech devices. What if we could make batteries from renewable resources like plants or, better yet, hippie batteries from hemp? As it turns out, hippie batteries are a real thing.
Graphene is a state-of-the-art material used to manufacture supercapacitors. It is also very expensive to make. Supercapacitors are different from regular batteries in that, while they still store energy, they are designed to discharge quickly. One place where this technology is used is in electric cars for the regenerative braking systems.
Dr. David Mitlin’s specialty is discovering sustainable and cost-effective alternatives to materials like graphene. One of his former successes was making batteries from banana peels. Now he has unlocked the secret to turning hemp into supercapacitors. Best of all, the hemp can be turned into a graphene-like material for a small fraction of the cost of graphene, and his research indicates that it works at least as well as graphene — if not better.
The technique used to make this graphene alternative involves boiling the inner bark from hemp plants (known as bast). This material is basically a waste product left over when hemp is used to make clothing or other products. The bast is cooked in a process known as hydrothermal synthesis to dissolve the lignin and semicellulose, leaving behind a pseudo-graphene structure. The supercapacitors that are then able to be built with this hemp-based pseudo-graphene perform very well.
Now that Dr. Mitlin has proven the concept of making high-performance batteries from hemp, he has started Alta Supercaps and plans to begin small-scale manufacturing of these hippie batteries. The company says its batteries could be ideal for the oil and gas industry because of the ability of the batteries to work at high temperatures.
Making rechargeable electronic components from renewable resources is an exciting development. Being able to make these materials at a fraction of the cost of traditional materials is even better. But being able to claim your high-tech device is powered using hippie batteries is just cool.