Lithium-ion batteries have two big hurdles to climb if they're going to power millions of plug-in vehicles – they're too expensive and their reliability has been called to question. For next-gen li-ion batteries to make it, there had better be a cheap and plentiful component. How about rice husks?

Researchers at Chungnam National University in South Korea say there's huge potential for the husks, which make up 20 percent of harvested rice kernels and are produced at a rate of about 80 million metric tons a year. Until now, rice husks were mostly thrown away because their usage has been limited to low-value agriculture functions such as fertilizer additive and bed soil. They have tough and abrasive properties, which severely limits the value. But the Chungnam researchers figured out that silica in the rice husks can be converted into silicon for high-capacity lithium batteries. Silicon is in high demand for batteries that are used in many hybrid and electric vehicles. Perhaps rice husks could make the silicon cheaper and thereby reduce the battery price?

The researchers took several steps to extract the silica. Through acid and heat treatments, they found that the silicon had excellent electrochemical performance when used for anodes, further suggesting the potential of rice husks.

We wonder if Toyota might be game to try out this potential. Aside from its passion for next-gen batteries, the company recently dug up some controversy surrounding with the leveling of a 17th century rice patty. Rice farmers would likely be pleased to see Toyota make restitution by paying for rice husks to support the future of next-gen lithium batteries.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 17 Comments
      EZEE
      • 2 Years Ago
      Rice patty LOL...
      2 wheeled menace
      • 2 Years Ago
      I like how this article ends with an article that singles out Toyota for building a plant for their hybrids. Because, you know, that's what a lot of people interested in green cars like to read. Hit pieces on green cars. Sebastian; maybe you should hire some people who don't have contempt for the subject matter at hand here. Domenick seems to be the only guy who cares.
        EZEE
        • 2 Years Ago
        @2 wheeled menace
        Exactly! The USA has a pile of rice production as well (we export to Japan on occasion, when they have a bad crop). But only Toyota.... In other news, Danny suggests that Ford should build its next plant in Israel, to make up for Henry being an anti-Semite 80 years ago.... (Now Danny is like, 'wtf did I do?')
      EZEE
      • 2 Years Ago
      They may be trying a couple of things: a) Troll the readers for clicks. Clicks generate money, and money keeps them in business. Imagine if they have a headline, "Daryl Issa, citing a study from Pike Research, announces that Haliburton can most cheaply and cleanly produce hydrogen from ethanol sources produced from corn to best thwart the Obama Administrations efforts to fund Solar Power." Mice world wide would be destroyed by furious clicking, and Sebastian would be rolling in money. b) Trying to appear even handed by discussing both sides of an argument. This can be nice, but sometimes various sides are addressed enough that one does not have to always say, "opponents say XXX..." Some arguments have been made ad naseum, and may no longer be relevant.
      Eideard
      • 2 Years Ago
      It's rice "paddy" not "patty". Cripes.
        2 wheeled menace
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Eideard
        A 17th century rice patty would be totally gross and not hard to level at all... :D
      Levine Levine
      • 2 Years Ago
      Where's the writer coming from? Li-Ion battery is expensive and with questionable safety? Commercial Li-Ion has been around for almost one decade. Power tools, laptop computers, and Tesla having been using Li-Ion batteries for long time. Where does La Sage get his stuff?
        2 wheeled menace
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Levine Levine
        Do you also find it funny that writers of a green blog would go out their it's way to deride green car technologies? I can't be the only one.
      bluepongo1
      • 2 Years Ago
      *Picard/Riker double face-palm.jpg* If only silicon was the second most common element on this planet, it would be so cheap !! (9_9) *It is BTW* Here's a tech with greater promise >==> http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/3d-printing-with-graphene-is-coming-and-it-will-power-the-future
      SublimeKnight
      • 2 Years Ago
      Unless the husks can replace the copper or aluminum foil in the battery it's not going to have a significant impact on the price of the battery. Silicon in lithium ion batteries does help increase their capacity, but I highly doubt the source of the silicon will affect the price much.
        William
        • 2 Years Ago
        @SublimeKnight
        How many cubic miles of earth have to be mined to manufacture an automobile Li-ion battery? Lithium used in EVs is "pretend environmentalism" - as so much of "Environmentalism" is. Search for John Peterson's blog on seekingalpha.com for technical writings in this regard. His consideration efficiency and environmental factors is called "ESOI," if my memory serves me. ESOI a moderately complicated equation which means 99.99% of self-proclaimed "Environmentalists" won't understand it. Those of this ilk rely on misinformation from enviro-polical-hucksters, so pervasive internationally. But "ESOI" also may be a searchable term.
          skierpage
          • 2 Years Ago
          @William
          Lithium isn't really mined, dummy. A briny solution near the surface is pumped onto salt flats in Bolivia, Chile and elsewhere, and a year or two of sunlight does most of the work. "After the brine reaches a lithium concentration of 6%, which takes not quite a year, it is pumped into tanker trucks and driven three hours west to a plant near the Chilean coast. There the solution is purified and dried until all that remains are crystals of lithium carbonate. These crystals are then granulated into the finished product coveted by battery manufacturers, a fine white powder resembling cocaine." People who care about the environment are far more informed about energy and efficiency than the general public. And I don't get my science from a stock-touting *lawyer* like John Peterson who has a direct financial interest in seeing Li-on fail because he's trying to bring lead-carbon battery technology to the market. Give me a f***ing break.
        Jim
        • 2 Years Ago
        @SublimeKnight
        It may not affect the cost, but it creates a battery with more widely available raw materials, thereby eliminating the bottlenecks on the supply end (i.e. Bolivia). Greater supply reliability for all.
        2 wheeled menace
        • 2 Years Ago
        @SublimeKnight
        Bolivia is not a bottleneck. Lithium is not rare. Silicon does not replace lithium..
          Jim
          • 2 Years Ago
          @2 wheeled menace
          Half of the world's known lithium reserves are in Bolivia. Granted, that has no bearing on discovery of future deposits but as the resources are currently know, yes Bolivia has the world's controlling interest in lithium and could easily take market share from other prominent South American producers. Any false sense of abundance that you currently may have about the element will rapidly evaporate as its use and demand greatly expands.
          SublimeKnight
          • 2 Years Ago
          @2 wheeled menace
          Jim - Lithium makes up about 2% of a lithium ion battery by weight. Its a fairly abundant element on the earth's crust. Perhaps the supply of lithium that can be scooped up with a garden shovel is low and found mostly in bolivia. If it becomes even slightly valuable and therefore worth the effort of extracting, much more can be had.
      Jim
      • 2 Years Ago
      Or the husks could be a great future feedstock for cellulosic ethanol production. And what the heck, extract the silica out of the waste at the end. Make everybody happy.
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