The drive to find the best renewable form of energy got a tremendous boost with the development of water based batteries. These water based batteries are not just for powering cell phones and electronic gadgets, mind you. They are designed to supply electricity much like huge power plants do to communities and commercial establishments.
The water based batteries were built by a team of researchers at the University of Southern California. Their purpose in developing the water based batteries is to have a new and cheaper form of renewable energy. These water based batteries will turn out to be more economical to operate because they last for about 5,000 recharge cycles. According to a member of the team, Professor Sri Narayan, this gives them an estimated lifespan of 15 years. In contrast, Lithium Ion batteries degrade after approximately 1,000 cycles and their manufacturing costs is 10 times greater.
How Water Based Batteries Work
The battery design is similar to that of a fuel cell. There are two tanks of electrically active materials dissolved in water. But instead of using metal parts and toxic chemicals, the development team used cheaper materials with minimal impact on the environment. In their research and development, the team discovered quinones, an oxidized compound present in plants, fungi and bacteria. This substance helps with photosynthesis and cellular respiration – perfect for energy transfer. The water based batteries are filled with these quinones molecules – nature’s way of transferring energy. There are also other types of water based batteries developed by other scientific research teams in the United States. The collaboration between GE Global Research and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory developed their own form of water based “flow” batteries. Compared to electric cars run by lithium-ion battery packs, this team claims that their battery has a triple driving range, at a quarter of the price. “We’re confident about the energy density and costs, but we also have to show that the batteries can quickly charge and discharge,” says Dr. Grigorii Soloveichik, a project leader and chemist at GE Global Research. He added that these batteries can easily beat the Department of Energy goal of 240 miles per charge.
Benefits of Water Based Batteries
Still, another water based battery was developed and patented at Murdoch University in Perth, Australia in 2012. This battery replaces lithium with a sodium component, resulting in an environment friendlier system. The battery provides four-fold increase in energy, compared to other standard forms which can only provide a one-fold increase. The greatest benefit of this type of battery is the abundance of supply of its major component. There is plentiful supply of sodium around the world and they could be gathered at very minimal costs. If this is compared to gathering lithium, the increase in cost will be very dramatic. This battery system uses sodium ions, an ingredient in cooking salt. These sodium ions require no stringent processing methods since they can work at room temperature. Water based batteries using sodium ions can greatly contribute to our combined efforts of discovering new forms of renewable energy.