Batteries Give You Security

Why your solar power system should have batteries.

Batteries give you independence from all types of grid failures from terrorism to storms to poles downed by accidents. 

Here are some of the latest developments in energy storage

Irish battery breakthrough

A team of Irish scientists at AMBER, the Centre for Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research, and Nokia Bell Labs have found an inexpensive way to make batteries more compact, scalable for industry, quicker to charge and with 250 per cent more energy density than any other battery on the market.

Phosphorene Nanoribbons

Phosphorene nanoribbons—  tiny, tagliatelle-like ribbons one single atom thick and only 100 or so atoms across, but up to 100,000 atoms long. It took three years honing the production process, before this announcementTheir width to length ratio is similar to the cables that span the Golden Gate Bridge. 

In the area of battery technology the corrugated structure of phosphorene nanoribbons means that the charged ions that power batteries could soon move up to 1000 times faster than currently possible. This would mean a significant decrease in charging time, alongside an increase in capacity of approximately 50%. Such performance gains would  allow us to much better harness renewable energy.

It also means that in future, batteries could use sodium ions instead of lithium ions. Known lithium reserves may not be able to meet huge projected increases in battery demand, and extraction of the metal can be environmentally harmful. Sodium, by contrast, is abundant and cheap.

High efficiency solar cells could now be much closer to  reality. The ribbons could solve another major roadblock in this area—how to electrically connect nanomaterials without creating large resistance (and therefore energy loss) at the joins. Several-layer thick versions of phosphorene nanoribbons can be seamlessly split into ribbons with different heights and electrical properties, circumventing the usual engineering requirements of connections. 

Producing these ribbons is however just the first step towards revolutionizing the above technologies. Much research now needs to be carried out to test theoretical predictions, and investigate the extent to which the properties of the ribbons can be tailored for specific applications. As the 20-year plus journeys of Teflon, lithium batteries, and Velcro show us, the road from discovery to use can be long. But with society increasingly moving away from fossil fuels, we expect that road to soon be well-traveled.

Chris Howard, Associate Professor, UCL and Mitch Watts, Ph.D. Candidate – Production, characterization and simulation of few-layer black phosphorus, UCL

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.