Lithium Battery Catalyst Found to Harm Key Soil Microorganism

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The material at the heart of the lithium ion batteries that power electric vehicles, laptop computers and smartphones has been shown to impair a key soil bacterium, according to new research published online in the ACS journal Chemistry of Materials. The study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin (UW) – Madison and the University of Minnesota is an early signal that the growing use of the new nanoscale materials used in the rechargeable batteries that power portable electronics and electric and hybrid vehicles warrant evaluation for their potential environmental consequences. The research team led by UW-Madison chemistry Professor Robert J. Hamers explored the effects of the emerging battery cathode material nickel manganese cobalt oxide (NMC) on the common soil and sediment bacterium Shewanella oneidensis. “As far as we know, this is the first study that’s looked at the environmental impact of these materials,” says Hamers, who collaborated with the laboratories of University of Minnesota chemist Christy Haynes and UW-Madison soil scientist Joel Pedersen to perform the new work.

See http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.chemmater.5b04505 for the full article.