Revolutionary organic batteries are 97% cheaper than metal-batteries

Harvard scientists have come up with a technology to make extremely cheap and eco-friendly batteries that can store renewable energy more efficiently than traditional solid-electrode batteries.

The battery technology is reported in an article published by Nature 9th of January last year. The article reports a metal-free flow battery that relies on the electrochemistry of naturally abundant, inexpensive, small organic (carbon-based) molecules called quinones, which are similar to molecules that store energy in plants and animals.

Flow batteries store energy in chemical fluids contained in external tanks—as with fuel cells—instead of within the battery container itself. The two main components—the electrochemical conversion hardware through which the fluids are flowed (which sets the peak power capacity), and the chemical storage tanks (which set the energy capacity)—may be independently sized. Thus the amount of energy that can be stored is limited only by the size of the tanks. The design permits larger amounts of energy to be stored at lower cost than with traditional batteries.

The battery was designed, built, and tested in the laboratory of Michael J. Aziz, Gene and Tracy Sykes Professor of Materials and Energy Technologies at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS). Roy G. Gordon, Thomas Dudley Cabot Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Materials Science, led the work on the synthesis and chemical screening of molecules. Alán Aspuru-Guzik, Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, used his pioneering high-throughput molecular screening methods to calculate the properties of more than 10,000 quinone molecules in search of the best candidates for the battery.

In practice, these batteries could create more effective, cheaper and largely eco-friendly renewable energy sources, taking advantage of, in example, the wind or the sun.

A prototype of the battery. (Photo by Eliza Grinnell, SEAS Communications)

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