Crab Shells as Sustainable Templates from Nature for Nanostructured Battery Electrodes
journal contributionposted on 2013-07-10, 00:00 authored by Hongbin Yao, Guangyuan Zheng, Weiyang Li, Matthew T. McDowell, Zhiwei Seh, Nian Liu, Zhenda Lu, Yi Cui
Rational nanostructure design has been a promising route to address critical materials issues for enabling next-generation high capacity lithium ion batteries for portable electronics, vehicle electrification, and grid-scale storage. However, synthesis of functional nanostructures often involves expensive starting materials and elaborate processing, both of which present a challenge for successful implementation in low-cost applications. In seeking a sustainable and cost-effective route to prepare nanostructured battery electrode materials, we are inspired by the diversity of natural materials. Here, we show that crab shells with the unique Bouligand structure consisting of highly mineralized chitin-protein fibers can be used as biotemplates to fabricate hollow carbon nanofibers; these fibers can then be used to encapsulate sulfur and silicon to form cathodes and anodes for Li-ion batteries. The resulting nanostructured electrodes show high specific capacities (1230 mAh/g for sulfur and 3060 mAh/g for silicon) and excellent cycling performance (up to 200 cycles with 60% and 95% capacity retention, respectively). Since crab shells are readily available due to the 0.5 million tons produced annually as a byproduct of crab consumption, their use as a sustainable and low-cost nanotemplate represents an exciting direction for nanostructured battery materials.