Almonds: A source of energy for our bodies, vehicles, and industries

almond shells

Thanks to their inherent properties, almonds are one of the most recommended options in a healthy diet. But these seeds not only provide vitamins, minerals, and proteins to our bodies. A recent research determines that their shells could also be a reliable energy source for automobiles and industries.

Almond shells for batteries

According to a study published in Materials magazine, researchers from the University of Córdoba built a battery that, in addition being made with plant residue, increases the vehicle’s driving range by up to 60%.

Most batteries are what we call lithium-ion batteries, which use graphite from fossil fuels and a compound of lithium, cobalt, and oxygen highly pollutant and expensive. On the contrary, this new technology takes the lithium-ion battery and replaces the graphite with carbon extracted from almond shells, increasing its power storage capacity and enhancing charging time.

For years, lithium-sulfur batteries have been regarded as one of the most promising energy storage systems. They have several advantages, such as their high specific energy and specific capacity, much better than lithium-ion batteries that dominate the market nowadays.

The main reason for these differences lies in the number of electrons involved in the electrochemical reaction. Two electrons exchange in Li-S batteries versus lithium-ion cells.

Another advantage of Li–S batteries is the low molecular weight of sulfur. In addition, it is a non-toxic species, environmentally-friendly, very abundant in the Earth’s crust and has a low production cost.

Use of carbon

Li-S batteries currently face two fundamental problems: the low ionic and electronic conductivity of sulfur; and the “shuttle effect” (transference of pair of electrons and protons) induced by long-chain polysulfides that tend to dissolve in the electrolyte.

The study highlights that carbon from non-edible biomass has long been studied as a potential candidate to solving these obstacles.

In this sense, carbon extracted from almond shells and activated with phosphoric acid has the texture properties required for its use in electric batteries. On one hand, a high surface area for sulfur hosting; and on the other hand, a microporous system that traps polysulfides and hinders their solubility in the electrolyte during the charge–discharge processes.

The compound’s electrochemical performance completely confirmed this expectation. The batteries delivered high specific capacity values when cycled under both low and high current rates.

According to the study, good stability in the extended cycle paired with excellent electric efficiency leads to the conclusion that carbon from biomass could be a sustainable source of electrodes for Li-S batteries.

The low cost and easy scaling of the processing for this activated carbon are clear advantages over other sophisticated electrode preparation methods for Li–S batteries, the report concludes.

Almonds for biofuel

But the uses for almond shells don’t end here. On the other side of the Atlantic, in Mexico, young researchers developed a biofuel made with almond residue. This product can substitute wood or coal in industrial production processes.

Biomasa Samajo is a project that proposes using the hard shells of Indian Almond seeds to produce renewable, ecological, environmentally friendly fuel that releases zero toxic gases to the atmosphere.

The multidisciplinary team of Biomasa Samajo discovered that, when processing this seed, its first soft shell can be used to make compost. Its second harder shell can be ground, pulverized, and compacted, with the end result having a coal-like texture.

The team came to the conclusion that this final product can be turned into biofuel. According to them, this use could have a high potential in industries that need to maintain high temperatures during their production processes.

Nutritional use

Furthermore, the team decided to utilize the almond’s nutritional properties to develop products like energy bars and marzipan.

Biomasa Samajo was founded two years ago and has been taking small steps in research and development. Additionally, the project won the sixth edition of the Sustainable Innovation Award 2018, granted by Walmart in Mexico and Central America in support of Mexican talent.

Currently, the team is in the process of patenting the brand and has begun selling its products in the state of Campeche after planting 150 almond trees in several hectares of land.

Thanks to the seed money obtained, the company is currently seeking to expand production.

In detail, the research is using Indian Almond tree, a species that can be found in the Mexican southeast region; especially in Miguel Colorado, state of Campeche.

The tree already provided shade for citizens, but they ignored the properties of its seed, which was considered waste until recently.

The researchers compared the similarities of the Indian Almond with common almonds and discovered they share similar nutritional value and properties with this almond regularly consumed in Mexico and imported from Asia and Europe.

For more information, check Energía16

See also: No major oil company is investing to support climate goals

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