Battery technology based on water tends to suffer from degradation, but researchers at Harvard’s John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences have seemingly fixed this, by developing aqueous battery technology that uses capacitive substances dissolved in a PH-neutral water-based solution. The breakthrough improves upon current flow battery technology by using a core that is non-toxic, not subject to corrosion, can hold a charge longer than current flow batteries, and could be manufactured at far lower prices than current flow battery solutions. Thanks to molecular changes that make the capacitive chemicals water-soluble, the new battery cell shows a shelf life far longer than most current battery tech, losing only 1 percent of its total charge capacity for every 1,000 cycles.
This new battery concept not only outdoes current flow batteries in cost efficiency and energy storage, but has also been shown in early testing to outperform the traditional lithium-ion batteries that are currently used in many types of consumer electronic devices. This means that these batteries are approaching a goal recently set by the Department of Energy for the creation of an energy solution that can store energy at a cost of $100 per kilowatt-hour or less, thanks to its cheaper to manufacture, but non-corrosive nature. Such a battery would even manage to make wind and solar energy a viable alternative to current solutions when it comes to cost. Current flow battery technology, on the other hand, is rendered prohibitively expensive thanks to necessary maintenance and short shelf life.
Development of the new type of flow battery began by figuring out what it was about current batteries that was causing them to degrade at the rate that they did. Once the team behind the battery managed to isolate the cause of the degradation, it became a matter of figuring out how to adhere to the principles of flow battery technology without having to implement the element in question. The answer ended up being ferrocene, a molecule that not only did an admirable job of replacing the element in question, but managed to make the capacitive compound used in the battery water-soluble, rather than having the solution suspended in the battery’s water like oil, as is the case with current flow battery technology. The new flow battery is currently still in the prototype phase, and may not be hitting the market, especially in consumer applications, for quite some time.