A global research team including scientists from the University of Western Australian has found that materials in laxatives could be used to create new electrolytes and powerful capacitors (components that store electrical energy) for use in electronics, so may hold the key to creating mobile phones that don’t need batteries to operate, and hybrid cars that run better.
The team also involved scientists from the USA, the UK and France, and its results have been published in the journal Nature Materials.
Professor Rob Atkin, from the UWA School of Molecular Sciences and the Australian lead on the project, says that by studying the molecular structure of laxatives the team created a detergent-like substance.
“This comprises of oil and soluble parts, two materials that naturally repel each other,” he says.
“The oily parts cluster together and form a barrier that traps positive charged ions. As the amount of positively charged ions near the surface is very high, a much greater charge can be stored, opening up a whole new way of storing electricity.
“Electric cars are more environmentally friendly than cars that run on petrol, but the current challenge is that they have limited ranges and long charging times, typically more than four hours. However, this breakthrough could solve these problems through the development of high performance capacitors.
“This technology could also be used to power mobile phones, meaning faster charging times, and allowing them to run much longer between charges.”
Professor Atkin says that the finding holds exciting possibilities for future advancements in technology.
“Not only will this create more powerful and efficient devices, but also provide great environmental benefits,” he says.