Durian has potential to charge devices in the future

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Local fruits like durian and jackfruit could change the way we charge our smartphones or electric cars in the future, according to a study highlighted in website Popular Mechanics.

A group of scientists led by associate professor Vincent G. Gomes at the University of Sydney in Australia has found a way to turn fruit cores from durian and jackfruit into potentially high-performing electrochemical supercapacitors, or energy storage devices with high energy density, which can then be further developed into applications such as batteries for electronic devices and transportation.

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“Supercapacitors are promising for energy storage due to their superior cycling stability and excellent charge-discharge ability,” the scientists wrote in a paper. In energy speak, a cycle refers to the process of fully charging and draining a battery.

Supercapacitors have two main advantages over batteries used in devices like smartphones – they can be recharged very quickly, and they can be charged over and over without degrading them much, unlike lithium-ion batteries that rely on chemical reaction to generate power.

Despite these benefits, supercapacitors are not used as widely as batteries because they generally have a lower energy density, and are also currently cost-prohibitive as the industry’s standard carbon-graphene mix (used to coat the electrodes in supercapacitors) costs between RM400 and RM500 per gram – precisely what Gomes and his team hope to address by turning to relatively inexpensive organic waste from the jackfruit and the durian.

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The scientists detailed the process of extracting biomass samples from the “inedible spongy core of each fruit” – or the white fibrous part of the fruit that nobody eats – to turn them into black, highly porous and ultralight forms of aerogel in a paper published in the Journal Of Energy Storage in February.

According to the scientists, their approach has been “successful in developing high surface area, aerogel-based electrodes which have higher capacitances than traditional carbon materials” used in today’s supercapacitors. In other words, the scientists claimed that their new biowaste-derived supercapacitors are higher-performing and cheaper than current supercapacitors.

The scientists added that due to global warming and rapidly depleting fossil fuels, there is a need to develop energy storage devices with high energy density from alternative sources.

“Converting food wastes into value-added products will not only improve the overall economy but also reduce environmental pollution,” they concluded. – The Star

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