2015 Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Winners

1st Prize – Team 10: Novel production and Purification of Manganese Dioxide

Sponsored by- Duracell

Sponsor Advisors – Dr. Michael Pozin

Team: Naomi Tennakoon, Abbey Wangstrom, Andrea DiVenere, Gianna Credaroli and Nicole Beauregard

Faculty Advisor – Dr. William Mustain

Duracell, a division of Proctor & Gamble,is the world’s leading manufacturer of alkaline batteries. The active materials of Duracell alkaline batteries consist of zinc at the anode and electrolytic manganese dioxide (EMD) at the cathode. The intrinsic properties of their EMD material imposes a limitation on the batteries’ capacity. The existing EMD synthesis procedure incorporates impurities into the material that shorten the lifespan of the final battery product.The existing analytical method is inadequate in achieving the desired precision to quantify these impurities. This diminished product life reduces the economic worth of the battery and increases the environmental footprint of its waste. From a production standpoint, the inability to definitively quantify the presence of impurities has become a burden in both optimizing the synthesis process and marketing the final product.

The goal of this Capstone Design is to develop novel procedures for both the production and characterization of a more pure electrolytic manganese dioxide for Duracell’s use in their alkaline batteries. Incorporating electrolyte additives has been hypothesized that using will decrease the impurities in the material. A scaled-up procedure and a production plant design will allow integration of these improvements into manufacturing facilities.

The solution strategy employed a combination of experimental and computational work to optimize the electrolysis procedure and thereby diminish the presence of EMD impurities. Testing several additives in the electrolytic bath and varying the electrolysis conditions produced in-house EMD. These experiments also provided parametric inputs for a computational model, which was developed to better understand the effects of these new conditions. To characterize each EMD synthesized, thermogravimetric analysis has been used for its superior precision to the existing analytical method in quantifying the product’s quality. With the scaled-up production and more definitive quantification of a more electrochemically pure EMD material, Duracell can improve the quality of their leading product. A battery with higher capacity can improve Duracell sales, lessen the environmental burden of battery waste products, and enhance the consumers’ trust in their power.