A new battery that relies on cheap organic molecules could help stockpile energy from renewable sources such as solar and wind power for use on cloudy and breezeless days.
Scientists have grappled with ways to bank power from intermittent energy sources because municipal power grids demand a continuous flow.
The new battery relies on quinones, common chemicals found in many forms of life that help hold energy for later use, Harvard researchers report in the Jan. 9 Nature. Previous designs of similar batteries have used metal compounds, which can be expensive, rather than quinones.
The device is a type of flow battery, in which two separated liquids pass in and out of a cell with electrodes. A membrane in the middle of the cell prevents the two solutions from mixing but allows ions to travel between them. To charge the battery, electricity causes a quinone-carrying liquid to accept electrons from the current and protons from the other liquid, containing bromide. The liquids then flow out of the cell and into storage containers. To extract energy from the battery, the liquids pass back though the cell and undergo the reverse chemical reaction.