Feeds

Boffins claim battery BREAKTHROUGH – with rhubarb-like molecule

Flow batteries without metals

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

The humble rhubarb has joined the growing hype-list of possible sources for super-battery materials, to help make renewables like solar and wind more able to cope with baseload requirements.

There's good reason to look for non-metallic electrodes in batteries – the most popular photo-voltaic backup is still the lead-acid battery – but the Harvard University researchers looking at the properties of plant-derived molecules are more interested in scale.

As they point out in the university's release here, solid electrode batteries have an architectural limit on their scale. This is because, as they write: “the power conversion hardware and energy capacity are packaged together in one unit and cannot be decoupled. Consequently they maintain peak discharge power for less than an hour before they are drained, and are therefore ill-suited to store intermittent renewables.”

In flow batteries, such as the researchers are working on, energy storage happens in external tanks, and recovered by flowing the fluid across the electrodes when needed. That means the peak capacity of the battery (which is limited by the electrode size) can be specified separately to total storage capacity, which is limited only by the size of the external tanks.

Getting good energy density at an affordable price in the external tanks is, therefore, one of the main aims of the research community – and this is where rhubarb comes in. Organic molecules, the Harvard researchers say, are more efficient at storing energy than metal ions.

Their paper (abstract), published in Nature, describes the use of a class of carbon-based molecules called quinones, which are similar to molecules that store energy in plants and animals. These replace the metal ions often used in flow batteries, like vanadium or platinum.

The electrodes used in the battery are “glassy carbon … in sulphuric acid”.

“Quinones are abundant in crude oil as well as in green plants. The molecule the Harvard team used in its first quinone-based flow battery is almost identical to one found in rhubarb. The quinones are dissolved in water, which prevents them from catching fire,” the release states.

The next stage in the research, they say, will be to test the cycling capacity of the battery, and work towards the thousands of cycles needed for commercial applications. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
Human spacecraft dodge COMET CHUNKS pelting off Mars
Odyssey orbiter yet to report, though - comet's trailing trash poses new threat
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.