Build­ing bet­ter bat­ter­ies

Focus-Science and Technology - - Innovations -

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.

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