A New Battery That’s Cheap, Clean, Rechargeable, and Organic

A New Battery That’s Cheap, Clean, Rechargeable, and Organic

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USC-battery-researcher-Sri-NarayanScientists at USC have developed a water-based organic battery that is long-lasting and built from cheap, eco-friendly components — no metals or toxic materials.

The new battery is intended for use in power plants, where it could make the energy grid more resilient and efficient by creating a large-scale means to store energy for use as needed.

This could pave the way for renewable energy sources to make up a greater share of a country’s energy generation by economically storing energy at night.

“The batteries last for about 5,000 recharge cycles, giving them an estimated 15-year lifespan,” said Sri Narayan, professor of chemistry at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Science.

“Lithium ion batteries degrade after around 1,000 cycles, and cost 10 times more to manufacture,” said Narayan, whose paper was published online by the Journal of the Electrochemical Society.

“Such organic flow batteries will be game-changers for grid electrical energy storage in terms of simplicity, cost, reliability and sustainability,” said collaborator Surya Prakash, professor of chemistry and director of the USC Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute.

The batteries could help to make renewable energy sources a greater share of the world’s energy generation. Solar panels can only generate power when the sun’s shining, and wind turbines can only generate power when the wind blows. That inherent unreliability makes it difficult for power companies to rely on them to meet customer demand.

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Photos from USC researchers

With batteries to store surplus energy and then dole it out as needed, that sporadic unreliability could cease to be such an issue.

“‘Mega-scale’ energy storage is a critical problem in the future of the renewable energy, requiring inexpensive and eco-friendly solutions,” Narayan 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 solutions are pumped into a cell containing a membrane between the two fluids with electrodes on either side, releasing energy.


The design has the advantage of decoupling power from energy. The tanks of electroactive materials can be made as large as needed – increasing total amount of energy the system can store – or the central cell can be tweaked to release that energy faster or slower, altering the amount of power (energy released over time) that the system can generate.

(READ more about the research from USC)

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