by Kristine Lofgren, 06/29/14
Large-scale energy storage is one of the major challenges facing renewable energy, but a recent breakthrough could be a real game changer. Scientists at USC, led by professor Sri Narayan, just developed a new long-lasting battery that is cheap to build, water-based, and made out of green components with no toxic chemicals and no metals. The battery can be used in power plants where it can store large amounts of energy for on-demand use.
Wind and solar energy are both limited by how much sun and how much wind is in the environment, but these new batteries could store large-scale energy, making renewable resources a more reliable source of energy and more attractive as a source of power for the energy grid. In other words, the unreliability of solar and wind could become a thing of the past. The batteries last for about 5,000 recharge cycles, far more than the traditional lithium ion batteries, which only last about 1,000 cycles, Lithium ion are also expensive to make – at least 10 times as much as these new batteries.
The design works on the same philosophy as a fuel cell and the tanks that hold the electroactive materials can be made as large as needed, and energy can be released slowly or quickly, depending on what is needed. And because the electroactive materials dissolve in water, there is no need for chemicals, making each battery cheaper and better for the environment. Scientists also expect to be able to make the compounds using carbon dioxide in the future, as opposed to the quinones used now, making them even more environmentally friendly.