New solar battery achieves an energy saving of 20% over regular batteries

Less than a year ago, a team at the Ohio State University (OSU) in the United States lead by Professor Yiying Wu, presented a solar battery capable of capturing and storing energy. The device is a solar cell and a rechargeable battery, but has the potential to be better than the two combined.

Flow-Battery_1024[Credit: Kevin Fitzsimons/Ohio State University]

This is possible because, in addition to collecting, converting and storing solar energy as chemical energy, the solar battery eliminates losses that occur between it’s multiple components – achieving an energy saving of 20 percent.

But when trying to turn this prototype into a practical solution, the researchers had a few problems: its electrolytes were made of organic solvents, not soluble in water, in addition to not being environmentally friendly. The good news is that the team has just solved this problem by replacing the organic solvents by an aqueous water solution of lithium-iodide (Li-I). Therefore, the new version is what they are calling an “aqueous solar flow battery”, resulting from the combination of the Li-I battery wand the dye-sensitized solar cells.

“The truly important innovation here is that we’ve successfully demonstrated aqueous flow inside our solar battery,” Yiying Wu from Ohio State University, said in a press release. “It’s also totally compatible with current battery technology, very easy to integrate with existing technology, environmentally friendly and easy to maintain.”

solar-flow-battery[Credit: Kevin Fitzsimons/Ohio State University]

The researchers’ calculations indicate that new solar battery shows energy savings of nearly 20 percent. While the typical battery had to be charged to 3.6 volts to discharge 3.3 volts, the solar flow battery was charged to only 2.9 volts to discharge the same 3.3 volts.

But the team will have to continue the research in order to reach 100 percent energy savings, which would make it a fully solar-chargeable battery.

“This solar flow battery design can potentially be applied for grid-scale solar energy conversion and storage, as well as producing ‘electrolyte fuels’ that might be used to power future electric vehicles,” one of the team, doctoral student Mingzhe Yu, said in the press release.

Source: Gizmag