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Now, organic and cheap batteries for power plants

Posted on Jun 26 2014 | IANS

New York, June 26 : A team led by Indian-origin scientists has developed a water-based organic battery that is long lasting and built from cheap, eco-friendly components.

The development could pave the way for renewable energy sources to make up a greater share of a nation's energy generation.

"The batteries last for about 5,000 recharge cycles, giving them an estimated 15-year lifespan," said Sri Narayan, professor of chemistry at the University of Southern California-Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, US.

"Lithium ion batteries degrade after around 1,000 cycles, and cost 10 times more to manufacture," Narayan added.

For the research, Narayan collaborated with Bangalore-born Surya Prakash, professor of chemistry and director of the USC Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute, as well as USC's Bo Yang, Lena Hoober-Burkhardt, and Fang Wang.

"Such organic flow batteries will be game-changers for grid electrical energy storage in terms of simplicity, cost, reliability and sustainability," Prakash said.

The new battery is based on a redox flow design - similar in design to a fuel cell, with two tanks of electroactive materials dissolved in water.

The team's breakthrough centered around the electroactive materials. While previous battery designs have used metals or toxic chemicals, Narayan and Prakash wanted to find an organic compound that could be dissolved in water.

Such a system would create a minimal impact on the environment, and would likely be cheap, they said.

Through a combination of molecule design and trial-and-error, they found that certain naturally occurring quinones - oxidized organic compounds - fit the bill.

Quinones are found in plants, fungi, bacteria, and some animals, and are involved in photosynthesis and cellular respiration.

The study appeared online in the Journal of the Electrochemical Society.

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