Polypeptide organic radical batteries. Academic Article uri icon


  • In only a few decades, lithium-ion batteries have revolutionized technologies, enabling the proliferation of portable devices and electric vehicles1, with substantial benefits for society. However, the rapid growth in technology has highlighted the ethical and environmental challenges of mining lithium, cobalt and other mineral ore resources, and the issues associated with the safe usage and non-hazardous disposal of batteries2. Only a small fraction of lithium-ion batteries are recycled, further exacerbating global material supply of strategic elements3-5. A potential alternative is to use organic-based redox-active materials6-8 to develop rechargeable batteries that originate from ethically sourced, sustainable materials and enable on-demand deconstruction and reconstruction. Making such batteries is challenging because the active materials must be stable during operation but degradable at end of life. Further, the degradation products should be either environmentally benign or recyclable for reconstruction into a new battery. Here we demonstrate a metal-free, polypeptide-based battery, in which viologens and nitroxide radicals are incorporated as redox-active groups along polypeptide backbones to function as anode and cathode materials, respectively. These redox-active polypeptides perform as active materials that are stable during battery operation and subsequently degrade on demand in acidic conditions to generate amino acids, other building blocks and degradation products. Such a polypeptide-based battery is a first step to addressing the need for alternative chemistries for green and sustainable batteries in a future circular economy.

published proceedings

  • Nature

altmetric score

  • 470.22

author list (cited authors)

  • Nguyen, T. P., Easley, A. D., Kang, N., Khan, S., Lim, S., Rezenom, Y. H., ... Wooley, K. L.

citation count

  • 81

complete list of authors

  • Nguyen, Tan P||Easley, Alexandra D||Kang, Nari||Khan, Sarosh||Lim, Soon-Mi||Rezenom, Yohannes H||Wang, Shaoyang||Tran, David K||Fan, Jingwei||Letteri, Rachel A||He, Xun||Su, Lu||Yu, Cheng-Han||Lutkenhaus, Jodie L||Wooley, Karen L

publication date

  • May 2021

published in