24 ELECTRICALCONTRACTOR | SEP. 14 | WWW.ECMAG.COM
NEWS IN THE WORLD OF POWER AND INTEGRATED BUILDING SYSTEMS
> SCIENTISTS AT THE UNIVERSI TY OF
Southern California (USC) have developed an organic, rechargeable battery
that could be scaled up for use in power
plants, making the energy grid more resilient and efficient by creating large-scale
capacity to store energy for use as needed.
The USC team claims the water-based
organic battery, which uses no metals or
toxic material, is long-lasting and built
from cheap and ecofriendly components.
“The batteries last for about 5,000
recharge cycles, giving them an estimated
15-year lifespan,” said Sri Narayan, profes-
sor of chemistry at the USC Dornsife Col-
lege of Letters, Arts and Sciences and au-
thor of a paper published by the Journal
of the Electrochemical Society describing
the new batteries. “Lithium-ion batter-
ies degrade after around 1,000 cycles and
cost 10 times more to manufacture.”
The batteries could pave the way for
renewable-energy sources to make up
a greater share of the nation’s energy
generation. The inherent intermittency
makes it difficult for power companies
to rely on renewables to meet consumer
demand. With batteries to store surplus
energy and then dole it out as needed,
that sporadic unreliability could cease to
be an issue.
“‘Mega-scale’ energy storage is a critical problem in the future of the renewable energy, requiring inexpensive and
ecofriendly solutions,” Narayan said.
The new battery is based on a redox
flow design, similar to a fuel cell. This
design has the advantage of decoupling
power from energy. The tanks of electro-
active materials can be made as large as
needed, increasing the total amount of en-
ergy the system can store. The central cell
can also be tweaked to release that energy
faster or slower, altering the amount of
power (energy released over time) that
can be generated.
Through a combination of molecule
design and trial-and-error, they found
that certain naturally occurring quinones—oxidized organic compounds—
could dissolve in water and
minimize impact on the environment.
“These are the types of molecules that
nature uses for energy transfer,” he said.
Currently, the quinones needed for the
batteries are manufactured from naturally
occurring hydrocarbons. In the future, the
potential exists to derive them from carbon
dioxide, Narayan said.
The team has filed several patents in
regard to design of the battery and next
plans to build a larger scale version.
New Cheap, Clean, Rechargeable Organic Battery
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