Scientists at the University of Southern California have announced the development of a radical new kind of battery. Comprised not of lithium or toxic chemicals, inside the battery is a water-based system that harnesses the potential of organic compounds to store fantastic amounts of energy. Clean, reliable, efficient and inexpensive, this technology could be instrumental in achieving many long term goals in the transformation of the energy economy.
Though most of our power sources are running constantly, the truth is we don’t use all that power, all the time. As the nation sleeps, our wind turbines collect the majority of their daily energy, which must then be stored until the demand catches up with the abundance of supply. This energy is stored in batteries, much like the ones we buy at the store.
Batteries have long been a bottleneck for the technology industry, which partially explains why our cell phones can barely last a full day. But what’s true of our device is also true of electricity generation on the large scale. The batteries now used aren’t very efficient, contain loads of toxic chemicals, and are incredibly expensive to keep running.
Now, a new kind of battery has been unveiled, and its developers have designed it to be superior to the current standard in every conceivable way. First, it had to be more durable. Using a system known as organic flow that uses the same principles that plants use to store energy during photosynthesis, these batteries can last for 15 years, five times longer than lithium ion batteries.
And because the materials are nonhazardous and completely renewable, this power comes at a tenth of the current cost. Not only will this allow energy companies to gather abundant amounts of electricity over the long term, it will substantially alleviate the difficulties in establishing new green energy projects, which are still fairly reliant on government subsidies. Using new batteries like these that offer the right combination of price and power, it will be easy to convince the industry to adopt this environmentally friendly technology.
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Image: USC/Gus Ruelas