As Vilas Pol, a chemical engineer at Purdue University, unpacked new materials for his lab, the huge number of packing peanuts overwhelmed him. His team was dumping them out by the thousands, he says. Though many packing peanuts are made from biodegradable materials like cornstarch, they also contain chemicals that are harmful to human health and slow down the degrading process, making them take up an enormous amount of space in landfills. So Pol and his team devised a way to reuse packing peanuts by turning them into rechargeable batteries. The team presented their work on Sunday at the meeting of the American Chemical Society in Denver.