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New batteries have highest capacity yet

Molten air batteries useful for cars, grid-balancing

RESEARCHERS have developed a new class of rechargeable battery, the molten air battery, which they say has the highest intrinsic energy capacity of any battery yet.

Chemistry professor Stuart Licht’s team at George Washington University, US, developed the battery, which uses air and a molten electrolyte. The iron-based batteries have an energy capacity of around 10,000 Wh/l, carbon-based batteries have a capacity of 19,000 Wh/l and VB2 batteries have a capacity of 27,000 Wh/l. A standard lithium ion battery has a capacity of 600 Wh/l.

The high energy capacity makes the battery suitable for a variety of uses, including to increase the range of electric vehicles and for energy storage for the electric grid, to help balance out the intermittent power supplied by renewable technologies.

Being molten, the batteries work at very high temperatures of 700-800°C. The researchers tested three molten salts containing iron, carbon and vanadium boride (VB2) to store energy. The batteries use a nickel electrode which uses oxygen from the air to facilitate the battery’s discharge. Iron is oxidised to Fe (III), releasing electrons. When the battery is charged, Fe (III) is reduced back to iron. In the carbon-based battery, carbon is oxidised to carbonate ions, while VB2 becomes V2O5 and B2O3.
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