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Mattress textiles could be used to make EV batteries

A pile of mattresses in a landfill
In the project, funded by the Mattress Recycling Council (MRC), researchers converted and tested coconut fibres, shoddy pads, and cotton fibres in battery applications. Adobe Stock Images

Electrodes in the lithium batteries that power electric vehicles could be made from recycled mattress textiles, according to a new project funded by the Mattress Recycling Council (MRC).

In a three-year study at the National Institute for Materials Advancement at Pittsburg State University (PSU) in Kansas, researchers led by Dr. Ram Gupta developed a process that transformed mattress textiles into conductive carbon materials used to make the anodes and cathodes in lithium-sulphur rechargeable batteries. These lithium-sulphur batteries have two to three times more energy storage capacity than conventional lithium-ion batteries.

In the project researchers converted and tested coconut fibres, shoddy pads (which is a felt-like product already made of recycled fabrics), and cotton fibres in battery applications. These are materials are difficult to recycle. Dr. Gupta's team found cotton was the best material for building these new batteries. Preliminary results indicate that experimental rechargeable batteries both perform equal to or better than conventional batteries and do not require scarce metals such as nickel, manganese, and cobalt, which are found in many lithium batteries.

There is a shortage of suitable carbon feedstocks for making electrodes, which are needed to satisfy the growing demand for rechargeable batteries. Textiles – and not just from mattresses – are challenging to recycle, but could provide an inexpensive, clean, and abundant feedstock that can fill current and emerging needs. Sourcing feedstocks from recycled materials means they have a much lower environmental footprint relative to conventional sources.

MRC operates statewide mattress recycling programs in California, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. Collectively, these programs have recycled over 12 million mattresses. MRC has documented that mattress recycling reduces greenhouse gas emissions and lowers energy and water consumption. By weight, about 75 percent of each mattress is recycled. The battery project with PSU is one of a series of MRC-funded research projects designed to find new markets for recycled mattress materials (including textiles) and increase both the percentage of each mattress that can be recycled and the environmental benefits of mattress recycling.

The PSU research team is currently exploring the potential for commercializing these positive results.

Read the full report here.

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