Research into electrical storage batteries is currently enjoying quite a boom. A number of universities have been working on new technologies that promise great progress in terms of efficiency and lower economic and environmental costs.
A new battery developed by Yiying Wu, Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Ohio State University (OSU) in the United States is based on the ground-breaking idea of combining solar power generation with the KAir battery technology which was also developed at OSU.
The KAir technology has already been described by experts as revolutionary. It enables the design of clean, energy-efficient, large-scale stationary potassium-air (K−O2) batteries, which can be produced at just half the US Energy Department’s long term price point and do not leave behind any toxic by-products at the end of their lifetime. The researchers are now looking to market the technology on a large scale by 2017. The battery uses oxygen taken in from ambient air to create the lithium peroxide on which the energy storage technique is based. It demonstrates an exceptional degree of efficiency, reportedly putting out fully 98% of the input energy.
Now, by combining the KAir technology with a solar cell, the OSU has come up with an environmentally-friendly two-in-one device which recharges on its own using renewable energy. Explains Yiying Wu: “The state of the art is to use a solar panel to capture the light, and then use a cheap battery to store the energy. We’ve integrated both functions into one device. Any time you can do that, you reduce cost.”
As the new battery is expected to come at a highly competitive price as well as ticking several boxes in terms of major sustainability criteria, it looks likely to find a market. Meanwhile however, the entire battery sector is enjoying a boom. Electric cars and advanced smartphones call for ever-greater power. Researchers in Israel have recently succeeded in creating a battery based on nanotechnology and bio-organic components, which promises to recharge your phone in thirty seconds.
A similar promise has been made by a research team from Nanyang Technology University (NTU) in Singapore. They have replaced the usual graphite anode in lithium-ion batteries with a new gel material made from titanium dioxide. This has led to a number of improvements: the charging speed is much faster – the scientists promise just fifteen minutes for an electric car; and battery life is much greater – twenty times longer than for the current generation of lithium-ion batteries. The inventors say that they hope to bring their new battery to market soon by using a simpler manufacturing process.
Meanwhile Nokia is looking to harvest the energy from everyday background noise in order to recharge smartphone batteries. So progressive battery technologies are jostling for attention right now but the inventors seem to be having difficulty getting their products to market. This is a challenge which KAir hopes to meet by raising $6 million to launch series production.