Recyclable Polypeptide Battery

There is new research into a new battery technology platform that is completely metal-free. This new battery technology platform utilizes a polypeptide organic radical construction.

Almost all Li-ion batteries currently use significant amounts of cobalt, which in several well-documented international cases is mined using child labor in dangerous working environments. Additionally, only a very small percentage of Li-ion batteries are recycled, increasing the demand for cobalt and other strategic elements.

Nature – Polypeptide organic radical batteries


In only a few decades, lithium-ion batteries have revolutionized technologies, enabling the proliferation of portable devices and electric vehicles1, with substantial benefits for society. However, the rapid growth in technology has highlighted the ethical and environmental challenges of mining lithium, cobalt and other mineral ore resources, and the issues associated with the safe usage and non-hazardous disposal of batteries. Only a small fraction of lithium-ion batteries are recycled, further exacerbating global material supply of strategic elements. A potential alternative is to use organic-based redox-active materials to develop rechargeable batteries that originate from ethically sourced, sustainable materials and enable on-demand deconstruction and reconstruction. Making such batteries is challenging because the active materials must be stable during operation but degradable at end of life. Further, the degradation products should be either environmentally benign or recyclable for reconstruction into a new battery. Here we demonstrate a metal-free, polypeptide-based battery, in which viologens and nitroxide radicals are incorporated as redox-active groups along polypeptide backbones to function as anode and cathode materials, respectively. These redox-active polypeptides perform as active materials that are stable during battery operation and subsequently degrade on demand in acidic conditions to generate amino acids, other building blocks and degradation products. Such a polypeptide-based battery is a first step to addressing the need for alternative chemistries for green and sustainable batteries in a future circular economy.

SOURCES – Texas A&M, Nature
Written By Brian Wang,

24 thoughts on “Recyclable Polypeptide Battery”

  1. The ends don't justify the means.

    If they paid a living wage, then the parent could do the work, while the child goes to school. There's a reason why we moved from child labor in industrialized countries. I would also bet if they employ child labor they also don't provide any safety equipment. Who knows what these kids are breathing?

  2. Who's going to pay for all your good intentions, in these poor nations? The way to improve conditions would be to improve the profitability of the mining operations, so wages could rise.

    Historically, the only environment where real wages increase, is a labor shortage. Employers bid up wages trying to attract, and retain workers.

    Trying to embargo cobalt from these "artisanal" mines does the opposite. Higher wages would attract adult employees, encourage capital investment in the mines, and improve working conditions.

  3. In the vast majority of cases, letting people make their own economic decisions results in a superior result. That is the central concept of the Austrian school of economics.

  4. I would go further. In the fields of technology I'm familiar with, if the amazing new technology isn't an order of magnitude BETTER than current tech it isn't going to make it.

    Your brand new prototype widget is 10x as good as the existing dinosaur wodgets currently on the market.

    By the time you add in all the safety and protection features you need to allow this product to be used by the general public, rather than the PhD experts who developed it, it's down to a factor of 7x.
    Then you need to redesign it for mass, cheap production by skilled, but not world expert class, factory workers. Down to a factor of 5x.
    By the time you actually get your product from prototype to sitting on the shelves in the shop, the old cave-man-tech wodgets have improved their performance by a factor of 2, so your product is now only 2.5x.

    Because everyone knows how to use, integrate, maintain, and be compatible with the wodget tech, your actual user experience in the field with the confusing new widget is really only 1.5 to 2x as good as the latest version of the wodget.

    If it isn't at LEAST 1.5 to 2x as good, then most people won't risk investing in the new technology. So this is the absolute minimum you can hit the market with.

    Hence, starting with a factor of 10x is the minimum.

  5. For once the comment spam advertising what I presume is a lucrative position in the online live pronography racket is exactly on topic.

  6. Actually … soy sauce. Proteins power soy sauce manufacture, and tho' it might be a Snopes myth, even hair can be used to produce bottom shelf shoyu. Apparently. What a recycling idea! Used battery sauce!

  7. Get rid of the war lords, and there's WAY more money from competent mining … even if still quite manual … to go around. When paying off the warlord (or dying) are your options, let's just say food goes for want.

  8. Well, at the risk of being my usual goatish self, …

    What is the ENERGY DENSITY?

    Seriously! Not a single number I could find between the linkies and this article to give at least an inkling of potential energy density (either kWh/kg or kWh/L) figure of merit. 

    Oh, between the linkies and the article there is a lot of rah-rah-rah regarding all the purportedly negative aspects of the lithium rechargeable battery, and toxins, and child labor, and badness. Lots of it. So, OK, but is the new fûqueing battery going to actually COMPETE at favorable economics, density and compactness with the LiIon battery tech?

    Not just a few days ago, Tesla was proudly trumpeting its manufacture of the revolutionary 4680 LiIon cell. Positively huge by today's mass-produced standard, it up's the ante on kWh/kg and kWh/L statistics. And kWh/$, one must hope too. 

    In the last 45+ years, I have noted a trend: when an article waxes eloquent about how a new tech is going to save the world, and produce no toxins, and be revolutionary and all … and yet the article glaringly fails to mention competitive numbers to extant tech … well, the smell of dead fish is overwhelming. 

    Peptides? I would imagine less than ¹⁄₁₀ the ENERGY DENSITY or even kWh/$ figure of merit. And worse kWh/L … peptides being rather high volume for each charge group. 

    Compared to lithium.

    ⋅-⋅-⋅ Just saying, ⋅-⋅-⋅
    ⋅-=≡ GoatGuy ✓ ≡=-⋅

  9. No, put the child in a school where they can get at least one or two meals every weekday. Most mining environments are terribly insalubrious, and if children are working there, they will probably either die in a mining accident within a couple of years or develop some sort of occupational disease that will stunt their development and eventually prevent them from working. And then the family starves, anyway, since the child cannot work because they are either dead or crippled.

    Great idea.

    Instead, offer schools which can feed at least the children and create a path towards vocational training, particularly agricultural so they can take up subsistence farming when they grow up, if things are truly dire.

  10. Well said and thank you for bringing it up
    It's vitally important that we think about others, in particular the poorest and help them where we can

  11. I really do love these kinds if energy ideas and I hope they go a long way. I think it would be great to be able to grow batteries in a lab rather than having to dig into the ground for things. Even though, digging can be a fun and fruitful experience. You find things like ancient civilizations. … And Cthulhu.

  12. Yeah, improve what needs improving where child labor and child slavery are problems, so that people don't find it necessary. Make it unnecessary and it won't happen. And when those situations improve and you still have the few stragglers who want to continue the practice because they profit from it… scrape those people off the planet. >:D

  13. But hey, there are two amusing aspects to moldy batteries:

    1) They can end up looking like the critters from Critters.
    2) You could use your spent batteries to brew [some very likely disgusting] kombucha!

  14. Consider the economic conditions in these nations. The child worker's earnings may be what is feeding him, and his family.
    It's patronizing to condemn these people, and their practices while scratching out a living extracting minerals for sale, to make other people's lives better. The world economy needs cobalt, really. The mine owners don't have the capital to develop a commercial mining operation. Even if they did, deposits might be economical by different methods.

  15. Right. I'm guessing these metals will be significantly harder to replace with organics in, say, magnets, than in batteries. If you're concerned with child slavery, address child slavery.

  16. bigger issue than people realize – the politics, geography, and economy of surveying, accessing, exploiting, manufacturing safely and economically, disposing/ recycling, and continually harnessing new is way poorly understood. The early adopters have it good – the masses will get the headache.

  17. If child labour in cobalt mining is a problem, then the solution is to crack down on child labour in cobalt mines, not throw away all metal-ion battery chemistry. This is a solution in search of a problem.

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