Batteries made of used face masks

Researchers at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) in Russia developed a method to recycle used face masks into flexible, low-cost batteries.

During the coronavirus pandemic, people started using more than 130 billion masks every month. These masks are designed to be disposable, which is good when it comes to hygiene and containing the virus, but bad for the environment. The masks are made of plastic and are commonly burned after use, emitting toxic gases.

The NUST researchers, along with researchers from the US and Mexico, developed a new technology for producing cost-effective batteries from used masks, in which waste drug blister packs are also used, as a shell.

To make the batteries, first the masks are disinfected with ultrasound. Next, they are dipped in an ‘ink’ made of graphene, saturating the mask. Then, the material is put under pressure and heated to 140°C. A separator, also made of face mask material, with insulating properties is placed between the two electrodes made of the new material. It is saturated with a special electrolyte. Finally, a protective shell is created from the material of medical blister packs, such as paracetamol.

In addition to recycling medical waste, the mask batteries are also more environmentally friendly to make since, conventional supercapacitor batteries require very high temperatures for pyrolysis-carbonation, up to 1000-1300°C, while the new technology reduces energy consumption by a factor of 10.

The batteries can be used in household appliances from clocks to lamps.

Another innovative way to recycle masks, you can find here.

Image: NUST