A New Battery Outperforms All of its Previous Versions

A New Battery Outperforms All of its Previous Versions

The batteries produced from a modified Quinone will write a new chapter in storing green energy generated from renewable resources.

Humanity needs to shift towards clean energy if we want to prolong the existence of our civilization. Scientists are working very hard, these days, to maximize the utilization of the known sources of clean energy like Solar Power and Wind Energy. Similarly, they are exploring different avenues to harness more sources to eliminate the combustion of fossil fuels for energy purposes. Even if we manage to generate sufficient energy from renewable sources, we will still need means for storing it. Experts from different parts of the world have been experimenting on organic batteries to come up with the most suitable solution but it seems as if the researchers of the Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) at the Harvard University are leading the race.

A team of researchers which was co-led by Michael Aziz, the Gene and Tracy Sykes Professor of Materials and Energy Technologies, and Roy Gordon, the Thomas Dudley Cabot Professor of Materials Science and Chemistry, has developed an organic molecule that outlives and outperforms its predecessors. The name given to this molecule is ‘Methuselah Quinone’. It has the ability to store and release energy many tens of thousands of times over longer periods of time. This ultimately led the researchers to the longest-lasting high performance organic battery of the history. Gordon told the world about their finding by saying,

We designed and built a new organic compound that can store electrical energy and also has a very long life before it decomposes. We discovered degradation processes of the molecules that we previously used in flow batteries. Then we created new, more stable molecules that avoid these problems.”

This latest discovery was made possible due to a prior collaborative research of Aziz and Gordon. They joined forces with Alán Aspuru-Guzik, a Professor of Theoretical Chemistry, to study the degradation process of previous Quinone molecules that were used inside Organic Flow Batteries. This helped them to make the adjustments that were needed to increase the lifespan of the Methuselah Quinone. Aziz referred to this earlier research and said,

“In previous work, we had demonstrated a chemistry with a long lifespan but low voltage, which leads to low energy storage per molecule, which leads to high cost for a given amount of energy stored. Now, we have the first chemistry that has both long-term stability and comes in at more than one volt, which is commonly considered the threshold for commercial deployment. I believe it is the first organic-based flow battery that meets all of the technical criteria for practical implementation.”

Organic Flow Batteries have significant advantages over traditional Lithium-ion and Vanadium flow batteries. Firstly, they are considered to be much safer than their conventional counterparts. Other than that, they are cheaper than their alternatives, which holds substantial amount of significance given the fact that they have to be produced on a large scale for storing renewable energy.

Experiments showed that the Methuselah molecule has a number of features that can help in reducing the cost and increasing the efficiency of the organic batteries. Firstly, it was observed that it is highly soluble and can store more energy in a limited space. Its ability to work in a weak alkaline electrolyte offered a massive boost to the cost-saving mission as inexpensive, containment materials and polymer membrane, were used. The fading rate of the molecule was another big plus. The researchers discovered that the Methuselah faded at a rate of less than 0.01% per day. Similarly, it had a fade rate of less than 0.001% per discharge cycle. This meant that useful operations could be performed for tens of thousands of cycles as less than 3% degradation will be observed annually. David Kwabi, a Postdoctoral Fellow at SEAS who is Co-first Author of the study, talked about the experimental findings in the following words:

“This research demonstrates the potential of organics. We show that organic molecules are a viable, long-lasting, cost-effective alternative to expensive vanadium batteries.”

The researching team is now looking for financial support in order to scale up the technology for industrial applications. The Office of Technology Development (OTD) of the Harvard is helping them out in this search and they seem quite confident to take it all the way.

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