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Scientists convert chicken fat into hive energy

Scientists transform chicken fat into energy-storing devices

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Extracted chicken fat created a carbon-based material for a supercapacitor.

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Source: Mohan Reddy Pallavolu

The global move towards more sustainable, green energy has increased power reserves and the demand for energy storage devices. Unfortunately, some of the materials for these devices can be expensive and create environmental problems. Making alternative energy storage devices from things that are usually thrown away could help solve these problems. Now researchers from Materials and interfaces used ACS described a method for converting chicken fat into carbon electrodes for energy-storage supercapacitors and power LEDs.

According to the International Energy Agency, global renewable energy capacity saw an unprecedented increase of almost 50% in 2023 compared to the previous year. However, the surplus energy must be stored somewhere so that the world can later benefit from its production. For example, sunny days in California have recently resulted in negative energy prices due to excess supply from rooftop solar panels. Recent attempts to design high-performance storage devices have used carbon materials such as graphene due to their efficient charge transport and inherent abundance, but they are expensive to produce and generate pollutants and greenhouse gases. Searching for an alternative carbon source material, Mohan Reddy Pallavolu, Jae Hak Jung, Sang Woo Joo and colleagues wanted to develop a simple, cost-effective method for converting waste chicken fat into electrically conductive nanostructures for supercondensing energy storage devices.

The researchers first used a gas gun to render chicken fat, then burned the melted oil using a flame wick method, similar to a kerosene lamp. They then collected the soot at the bottom of a flask suspended above the flame. Electron microscopy showed that the soot contained carbon nanostructures, which were uniform spherical networks of concentric graphite rings, resembling the layers of an onion. Scientists tested a way to improve the electrical properties of carbon nanoparticles by immersing them in a thiourea solution.

Carbon nanoparticles derived from chicken fat installed in the negative electrode of an asymmetric supercapacitor showed good capacity and durability, as well as high energy and power density. As expected, these properties were further improved when the electrodes were made of thiourea-treated carbon nanoparticles. The researchers then showed that the new supercapacitor could perform real-time applications – charging and combining two of them to light red, green and blue LEDs. The results highlight the potential benefits of using food waste such as chicken fat as a carbon source in the search for even greener green energy.

The authors acknowledge funding from the National Research Foundation of Korea through the Regional Lead Research Center (RLRC) for innovation in autonomous vehicle parts and materials.

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