How a blue dye found in wastewater could power batteries

This liquid-based battery has methylene blue solution (left side), and a colorless solution of leuco methylene blue (right), which is methylene blue with added electrons. 

When it comes to battery materials, there’s a lot of talk about lithium and cobalt, but some chemists think the batteries of the future could be powered by a commonly used dye.

The dye in question is methylene blue, and it creates an intense sapphire color. The dye looks good, but it can be harmful when it leaches into wastewater from textile mills. Anjula Kosswattaarachchi, now a PhD candidate in chemistry at the University at Buffalo, used to work with textiles at the Sri Lanka Institute of Nanotechnology, so she was familiar with the problem of methylene blue pollution.

At Buffalo, Kosswattaarachchi studies a type of liquid battery called flow batteries, and she also worked on a project that focused on removing hazardous materials…

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