Scientists used sugar to create an unprecedented battery that is capable of storing grid-scale power for more than a year.
The breakthrough could help speed the transition to renewable energy sources, which require large amounts of battery storage to avoid meeting demand with fossil fuels when there isn’t much solar or wind production.
A team from the US Department of Energy’s (PNNL) Pacific Northwest National Laboratory made the latest discovery while investigating flow batteries, which produce an electrochemical reaction through two liquid-filled chambers to store and release energy. .
Flow batteries have the potential to expand to the size of football fields, as they are capable of storing large amounts of energy; however, current methods of creating them require mined minerals that are difficult to obtain and expensive.
“It is a completely new approach to developing flow battery electrolytes,” explained Wei Wang, a battery researcher who led the research on the new method. “We show that a totally different type of catalyst designed to speed up energy conversion can be used.”
The researchers used a simple dissolved sugar called β-cyclodextrin, which is a derivative of starch, to increase the longevity and capacity of the flow battery.
The system achieved 60% more peak power than current methods, while being able to store and release energy for over a year continuously.
Thanks to the latest breakthrough, the next-generation battery design is now a “candidate for expansion,” according to the researchers.
“We can’t always dig the Earth for new materials,” stressed Imre Gyuk, director of energy storage research in DOE’s Office of Electricity.
“We need to develop a sustainable approach with chemicals that we can synthesize in large quantities, just like the pharmaceutical and food industries.”
A study detailing the research, titled ‘Proton-regulated alcohol oxidation for high-capacity ketone-based flow battery anolyte’ ketone), was published in the scientific journal Joule.
Translation of Michelle Padilla