Could a Petroleum Waste Product be the Answer to Powering Your Electric Car?

Powering Your Electric Car ( Solar Thermal Magazine ) The biggest obstacle to the wide-scale adoption of electric cars by consumers has been twofold:

1) The cost of lithium-ion batteries in sufficient quantities to power a car and

2) the very low driving distance range of current battery technology.

 These limitations have spurred  a lot of research, the results of which are very promising.  Earlier this month, Japanese researchers unveiled their dual carbon battery, and this week researchers at the University of Arizona’s modified sulfur battery was the topic of this American Chemical Society Breakthrough video.

Professor Jeff Pyun, Ph.D. and his team are using modified sulfur, a common industrial waste product produced in mass quantities by oil refineries, to boost the charge capacity and extend the life of electric car batteries.  

They  have developed a  new chemical process that can transform waste sulfur into a lightweight plastic .   The new plastic performs better in batteries than elemental sulfur, Pyun said, because batteries with cathodes made of elemental sulfur can be used and recharged only a limited number of times before they fail.  The new plastic has electro-chemical properties superior to those of the elemental sulfur now used in Li-S batteries. The team’s batteries exhibited high specific capacity (823 mAh/g at 100 cycles) and enhanced capacity retention.  

According to research team member, Jared Griebel a University of Arizona chemistry and biochemistry doctoral candidate, about one-half pound of sulfur is left over for every 19 gallons of gasoline produced from fossil fuels.  Although there are other industrial applications for elemental sulfur, the supply greatly exceeds the demand.  The tar sands in Canada have “pyramids” made from the stuff as can be seen in this picture by Global Forest Watch.

Could it be Karma that the petroleum industry might provide the fuel to speed up it’s own demise?      

Tracey Smith About Tracey Smith
Tracey is an accountant and entrepreneur with a passion for nature. This passion is what spurred her interest in renewable energy, and the rest is history as they say. Tracey is a principal in Energy Think Group, the publisher of Solar Thermal Magazine and Tek-Think. She is also the principal at Women's Financial Help Desk. She spends her free time in the outdoors with her horses and dogs. She loves to travel.