Thursday, April 25, 2024

Transforming energy storage with organic, recyclable batteries

A greener, rechargeable world could be within reach as Kiwi scientists work to develop a new battery that is rechargeable for decades, made from organic materials and can be fully recycled.

While it might sound too good to be true for some, Associate Professor of Physical and Chemical Sciences at Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha |University of Canterbury (UC) Deborah Crittenden, says long-life, high performance organic batteries are possible.

“We’re working on using room temperature molten salts made out of cheap and plentiful organic materials to boost the energy density of existing redox-flow batteries,” says Assoc Prof Crittenden (pictured).

“This would mean they can become a viable alternative to traditional lead acid batteries and the lithium-ion batteries that currently power electric cars.”

She says redox-flow batteries, which store energy using liquid electrolytes instead of solid electrodes that degrade over time, hold their charge for just as long after five, 10 or even 20 years of use as when they are new.

“We expect our batteries to be roughly on-par with lithium-ion batteries in terms of energy density and voltage, but because the energy storage components of our batteries are liquids, they will be instantly refillable and rechargeable and have substantially lower environmental impacts than other batteries on the market because of their sustainable and recyclable materials.”

Assoc Prof Crittenden says redox-flow batteries could replace lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles (EVs).

“Imagine being able to pull into a station in your EV and instantly refill your tank with charged battery fluid rather than having to wait at a charging station. Then the station operator could take the used liquid from the car and recharge it ready for the next vehicle.”

The organic batteries could also be a cost-effective and environmentally-conscious replacement for the lead-acid and lithium-ion batteries commonly used to store energy from rooftop solar panels, Assoc Prof Crittenden says. On a larger scale, they could help Aotearoa New Zealand store energy generated from renewable wind and solar farm sources across the national grid, she says.

“We believe these batteries will play a critical role in helping New Zealand reach its climate change goals of 100% renewable electricity generation by 2035 and carbon neutrality by 2050.”

“New Zealand could become a world leader in the development of game-changing grid-scale energy storage technologies. Globally, the energy storage market is forecast to hit more than $200 billion by the end of this decade as countries look to use more renewable power sources to generate electricity.”

Assoc Prof Crittenden says if the project progresses to the manufacturing stage, it makes sense for Aotearoa New Zealand to take advantage of overseas manufacturing facilities, but retain ownership of the intellectual property, creating local research and development jobs.

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