In the future, we'll pull battery parts out of the clouds

In the future, we'll pull battery parts out of the clouds

Instead of belching out greenhouse gases, the electric cars of the future could become carbon negative - capable of actually reducing the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide as they drive.

How? By turning that carbon dioxide into nanotubes, and using it as the anode of the car's battery.

Researchers from George Washington University and Vanderbilt University in the United States have figured out how to replace the graphite electrodes in lithium-ion batteries with carbon recovered from the atmosphere.

Impressively, the resulting batteries actually perform better than their commercial equivalents.

A Value For Carbon Dioxide

"This approach not only produces better batteries but it also establishes a value for carbon dioxide recovered from the atmosphere that is associated with the end-user battery cost," said Vanderbilt University's Cary Pint. "That's unlike most efforts to reuse CO2 that are aimed at low-valued fuels, like methanol, that cannot justify the cost required to produce them."

Using this method, the team believes that up to 40% of the battery could be made from recycled CO2. That doesn't include the outer packaging, but it's thought that the same process could eventually producing packaging too. With a modern battery cost of $325 per kWh, that puts the value of a kilogram of carbon dioxide at $18.

"Imagine a world where every new electric vehicle or grid-scale battery installation would not only enable us to overcome the environmental sins of our past, but also provide a step toward a sustainable future for our children," said Pint. "Our efforts have shown a path to achieve such a future."

The team's research was published in the journal ACS Central Science.

Duncan Geere
Duncan Geere is TechRadar's science writer. Every day he finds the most interesting science news and explains why you should care. You can read more of his stories here, and you can find him on Twitter under the handle @duncangeere.