The world just got one step closer to renewable, cheap, and efficient large-scale energy production as researchers at Stanford University lead by engineer Yi Cui developed a grid-scale battery whose electrodes can last for up to a thousand charge cycles without degrading. The new battery is heralded as a game-changer for fluctuating renewable energy sources such as solar and wind.
The key to the battery‘s design lies in the structure of its electrodes. In regular batteries, charged particles move towards the positive electrode during charging. During discharge, the particles flow back towards the negative electrode, creating an electric current. As this process is repeated, electrodes tend to degrade as the ions move back and forth. In Yi Cui’s battery, the negatively charged cathode is coated in hexacyanoferrate, and the positively charged anode is made of activated carbon and an electrically conductive polymer. The electrodes are set in a liquid solution of positively charged potassium ions, which are able to flow between the anode and cathode without damaging them.
The materials used in this battery are commercially available, which means the technology can be applied on a large scale. Most current means of storage are too expensive to be practical on grid levels, but Stanford’s technology may prove to be a game-changer. “Virtually all of the energy-storage capacity currently on the grid is provided by pumped hydroelectric power, which requires an immense capital investment, is location-dependent and suffers from low energy efficiency,” the team remarks. Now, with this example of a fast and long-lived storage technology, the battery could provide the extra boost of power renewable energy needs to become successful, reliable, and cheap.