Researchers discover potential of chicken fat as clean energy storage alternative: 'Advancing the quest for more eco … – The Cool Down

“They showed excellent capacitance, durability, and high energy and power density.”
Photo Credit: iStock
South Korean experts have figured out how to power LEDs in part with chicken fat, and the science involves gas flame pistols. 
It’s fascinating work from Yeungnam University that turns a surprising scientific substance into carbon-based electrodes for use in supercapacitors, according to a report from Interesting Engineering. 
Supercapacitors store energy like batteries, but their inner workings are a little different. They have a long lifespan but don’t typically have as much storage capacity as batteries, making the latter the preferred power unit for electric vehicles and grid banks, as AzoNano explained
However, supercapacitor research is ongoing, providing new possibilities for the devices. Work is even underway to make them a part of clothing that powers wearable tech
Now the Yeungnam team has a new electrode material made in part from chicken fat oil from food waste. The experts report in ACS Publications that it is “environmentally friendly” and could “open the door to producing inexpensive, industrially revolutionizing energy storage devices.” 
What’s more, the unit held 97% of its capacity during 5,000 cycles. Supercapacitors generally have lifespans exceeding 1 million cycles. The new chicken electrode could be a lower-cost alternative to graphene and other expensive materials that result in air pollution when harvested, IE reported
A rendering of the process starts fairly simply. It shows a flame pistol being applied to a chicken carcass to render oil, which is then burnt. Soot is collected in a flask, which is heated with a flame. 
Using an electron microscope, the team found carbon-based nanostructures that looked like “layers of onions and were uniformly spherical lattices of concentric graphite rings,” per IE
By soaking the soot-native nanostructures in thiourea — a sulfur-containing organic compound — their serviceability in supercapacitors was unlocked. 
“They showed excellent capacitance, durability, and high energy and power density,” according to IE. 
Energy storage is crucial as we transition to intermittently generated, renewable power sources, which already provide more than 20% of the U.S. electricity supply. The World Economic Forum reports that 35% of global electricity could come from renewables by 2025. 
By reliably storing the power for later use, opportunities like community solar programs can expand. The option can help homeowners save up to 15% on their energy bills while preventing 8,500 pounds of planet-warming air pollution from being emitted annually. By slowing the Earth’s warming, we can begin to limit a trend that is feeding severe weather events, which NASA experts expect to increase in coming years, and putting communities around the world at risk. 
At Yeungnam, the fowl-inspired supercapacitor was charged and successfully powered colored LEDs. While a seemingly small feat, it’s evidence that solutions can come from unexpected places. 
“Researchers claim that the demonstration underscores the potential benefits of utilizing food waste, such as chicken fat, as a carbon source, thereby advancing the quest for more eco-friendly energy solutions,” IE’s Jijo Malayil wrote
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