In 2017, scientists shared new ways to think about energy storage and identify opportunities to work with materials that are readily available and could drop the cost of grid-scale batteries. Here are three breakthroughs you may want to follow.
1. It’s Urea and It’s Cheap
A team at Stanford University is working with urea as a battery’s electrolyte and says the new system they designed could be an inexpensive option for storing electricity. Urea is a component of urine and is commonly used in plant fertilizer. According to Stanford, the battery’s electrodes are made from aluminum and graphite. One team member said they are working with “the cheapest and most abundant materials” on Earth.
The team said that grid storage is the main goal of the project.
2. This Is a Watery Breakthrough
A team at Oregon State College also is looking at using abundant, low-cost materials to make batteries. They created a battery that uses hydronium-ions as a charge carrier, and that could be good for standing grid storage, the team says. Hydronium-ion is a water molecule with an added hydrogen-ion. It works as an acid electrolyte in the battery, and replaces lithium, sodium or potassium for carrying a charge.
One team member says the team’s work at OSC could provide a “paradigm shift” for more sustainable batteries.
3. And Now, Glass
Working on the theme of using abundant materials to improve battery economics, John Goodenough, inventor of the lithium-ion battery, says it’s possible to build a new generation of batteries with a solid glass electrolyte. Goodenough’s team says that these “all-solid-state” batteries would store power at lower temperatures than lithium-ion and would have an anode that is sodium — another abundant material.
The glass used for this battery is the result of research at the University of Texas Austin. It is considered a special, low-cost class of glass that offers “a safe rechargeable battery cell with high energy density and a fast charge as well as discharge,” according to research notes.