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US researchers develop new battery to store electricity for months

EBR Staff Writer Published 12 October 2017

Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US have developed an “air-breathing” battery designed to store electricity for months.

With reduced location restraints and zero emissions, the new battery has capacity to store electricity about a fifth the cost of current technologies and potentially be used to make renewable power more viable for the grid.

As part of the US Department of Energy-funded research, the team led by MIT professor Yet-Ming Chiang designed a new rechargeable flow battery.

The battery consists of a liquid anode (anolyte) of polysulfide containing lithium or sodium ions, and a liquid cathode (catholyte) comprising an oxygenated dissolved salt.

The battery’s electrolytes are pumped continuously to create charge or discharge. Upon discharge, the anolyte releases electrons into an external circuit and the lithium or sodium ions travel to the cathode.

This process allows catholyte to draw in oxygen, creating negatively charged hydroxide ions.

The oxygen flowing into the cathode allows the anode to discharge electrons to an external circuit while the oxygen flowing out sends electrons back to the anode, thus recharging the battery, MIT said.

Chiang noted: “This battery literally inhales and exhales air, but it doesn’t exhale carbon dioxide, like humans — it exhales oxygen.”

The researchers said that the commercial systems of the new design can be used to store electricity from wind or solar power for about $20 to $30 per kilowatt hour.

Chiang added: “The energy density of a flow battery like this is more than 500 times higher than pumped hydroelectric storage. It’s also so much more compact, so that you can imagine putting it anywhere you have renewable generation.”


Image: MIT researchers have developed an air-breathing battery with zero emissions. Photo: courtesy of the researchers/Felice Frankel/Massachusetts Institute of Technology.