Opening a package only to have your apartment flooded with packing peanuts is an annoying experience – and a total waste of plastic. But researchers Vilas Pol and Vinodkumar Etacheri at Purdue University finally have a use for the packing peanut nuisance: transforming them into fast-charging batteries. Using a heating process, the researchers were able to convert ordinary packing peanuts into carbon anodes for lithium-ion batteries.
We’ve all had the experience of ordering something online for convenience, only to open the package to have the pesky styrofoam packing peanuts invade our space. After finally collecting all of the little bits, we are unsure whether to throw them in the trash or if by some chance they may be recyclable. The Purdue University research team has put use to what we thought of as unusable, and their process not only eliminates the waste of perpetual packing peanuts, but also helps to create stronger batteries.
In their heating process, the researchers have developed a way to convert packing peanuts to energy-receiving anodes made from carbon. Through the heating, the packing peanuts break down to create very thin-walled anodes, which facilitate storage faster and more easily than thicker commercial anodes. The study found that packing peanut-batteries could last for 300 charges cycles before beginning to deteriorate, which has a 15 percent higher electrical storage capacity.
Pol and Etacheri still have plenty of research to do, but their packing peanut anodes are on the way to changing the lifespan of lithium batteries, while simultaneously creating a secondary market for those annoying packing foam.