Building better batteries
Two different batteries developed at Harvard and Pennsylvania State in the US could hold the key to better energy storage.
Both of the batteries aim to make energy storage more efficient and less environmentally harmful. Much of the current research focuses on ‘flow cells’ – a type of battery that can be recharged by simply replacing the electrolyte fluids inside – and it’s this path that the Harvard team has gone down. The researchers have modified the molecular structure of the electrolytes so that they can be dissolved in water and are more resistant to degradation. The result is a liquid battery that can store energy for over 10 years, and that contains no toxic materials. It’s hoped the battery will find applications in storing energy from wind turbines and solar panels.
Meanwhile over at Penn State, researchers have been experimenting with a flow cell battery whose two electrolyte solutions consist simply of solutions of CO2 and normal air. The difference in pH balance is then used to generate an electrical current. The idea is that such a device could be fitted to coal- or oil-fired power stations and be used to reduce emissions while generating more energy.