Pune scientists extract carbon from wild flowers

To help make better, cheaper supercapacitors.

Written by ANJALI MARAR | Pune | Published: June 16, 2017 5:15 am
Bougainvillea vines. Once developed, the new supercapacitors can be used to charge phones, e-vehicles.

City scientists have found a better use for the mostly ornamental bougainvillea vines that bloom year-round. A team of scientists from the Centre for Materials for Electronics Technology (C-MET) and Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) have managed to extract high-quality carbon from these wild flowers for better supercapacitors, or devices that can store a large amount of energy. Once developed, they could be best used to charge mobile phones, toys and even e-vehicles.

According to the scientists at C-MET and SPPU, these flowers, when dried and chemically treated, can be used to extract graphene (a type of carbon). And, they added, after ‘heartening’ results of the maiden study, the team is now undertaking final trials of the supercapacitors’ performance. The experiment involved programmed heating of the dried petals, at temperatures ranging from 250 degrees Celsius to 1,000 degrees Celcius, in order to not only obtain high-quality and highly-porous form of graphene (perforated).

On particularly choosing flower waste for the study, one of the senior scientists and the director of C-MET, Pune, Bharat Kale, said, “Since these flowers are available in abundance during all seasons and at all places, regardless of the geography, we decided to experiment with them.” Another reason for choosing the flower was that it has a wide variety of minerals, which, they believe, can contribute towards improving the performance of the electronic circuit, and thereby ensuring a longer life for gadgets. But the highlight of the study, published in Nanoscale journal in April this year, remains the cost-effectiveness of these supercapacitors, given that the carbon is being extracted from bio-waste. “As these flowers have very fine petals and are loaded with metals such as magnesium, calcium and potassium, the extraction procedure becomes easier,” he explained.

About how much graphene can be extracted from these flowers, the C-MET team said: 300 grams per kilogram of dried flowers. “Generally, a few milligrams of graphene is required for every supercapacitor and since this is extracted from waste, it must be noted that these supercapacitors can be produced at very affordable rates. The perforated graphene will have good potential in Lithium and Sodium ion batteries, development of which is progressive,” he said.

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