Science Friday on Plastic Batteries

Is this going to be the magic bullet of energy storage? First is from a material supply standpoint. So on one side, if you think about plastics from a feedstock perspective, you’re not dealing with mining. You’re not dealing with copper and cobalt and lithium and all of the other ecological disruptions. You’re dealing with a plastic supply chain that’s been well established for half a century.

The other side of it is, if you think about a plastic from an environmental standpoint, there’s two aspects which are great. Number one, it’s recyclable, right? You can take a plastic. You can reform it. You can add it into new plastics, and you can reuse it. The other side of it is that a plastic, by its very nature, when it is desensitized, it’s an inert material.

So a lot of the toxicity that comes from battery pollution actually comes from the metals that are in it. Not just lead as a metal but lithium, cobalt, copper, nickel, all of those metals, whether they’re in the parts per million or tens of kilograms, cause an environmental toxicity footprint. And by using plastics, basically, at the end of life, you’ve got an inert material.

And with regards to longevity: But real world cycle life testing takes physical time. So it’s quite possible that we’re going to be at 30,000 cycles in a year from now. But from a capital and depreciation standpoint, we call a battery a two to three-decade battery. And after that, the energy and power landscape is going to be different in 30 years from now. So it may be time for an upgrade.…