To match country’s rising demand of solar power, researchers of California’s acclaimed Stanford University developed a water-based battery. Aiming to provide a cheap way to store solar energy generated when the sun is shining, this battery can also store wind so it can be fed back into the electric grid and be redistributed during the high demand.
This prototype manganese-hydrogen battery, which is merely three inches high, generates a mere 20 milliwatt hours of electricity. This is on par with the energy levels of LED flashlights, which hang on a key ring. However, prototype’s diminutive output has been found, researchers are hopeful and confident enough that they can scale up this table-top technology to an industrial-grade system. This could charge and recharge up to 10,000 times and remember, with a useful lifespan, creating a grid-scale battery well in excess of a decade.
The team, led by Wei Chen, a postdoctoral scholar, coaxed a reversible electron-exchange between water and manganese sulphate. This sulphate is a cheap, abundant industrial salt, which used to make dry cell batteries, fertilizers, paper and other products. For grid-scale storage, the US Department of Energy (DOE) has recommended batteries, which should store and then discharge at least 20 kilowatts of power over a period of an hour. Such battery system cost can be estimated around $2,000 or less.
Following the immense growth of solar energy sector in US, invention of this battery system can be marked as revolutionary. Researchers also stressed on the high capacity and low cost of this system, which can provide electricity to a large number of households in the country.
According to a Stanford University professor Yi Cui, manganese-hydrogen battery technology could be one of the missing pieces in the energy puzzle and this can be proved as a way to store unpredictable wind or solar energy.
"What we have done is thrown a special salt into water, dropped in an electrode, and created a reversible chemical reaction that stores electrons in the form of hydrogen gas," the proud professor said.
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