Iron-Air Energy May Mean Greener Batteries And Cleaner Power

iron-air battery technologyThe move to green energy sources has made enormous strides forward in creating new ways to power our homes, our cars, our offices, our neighborhoods, our cities, and our world. They have changed the way that people think about power, and that means changing the way that power is stored.

An Efficient Means of Storage is Needed

Many of the low-emission, nature-friendly forms of renewable, inexhaustible, and environmentally conscious energy sources are only truly useful if the sun is shining, the wind is blowing, the rain is falling or the tide is rolling in. When these things are happening, then the devices used to create a charge – such as solar panels and turbines – are running beyond full capacity and operating with energy to spare. The problem arises when darkness falls across the land, doldrums settle over the field of windmills, or a drought strikes. What is needed then is a surplus of energy that is stored for later use when the conditions were good. Without sufficient power storage devices energy is wasted and we are reduced to using fossil fuels, natural gasses, and the other archaic, filthy energy sources that have been around since the industrial revolution.

In an earlier blog, we spoke about some of the emerging rechargeable battery technologies that will be available in the future. These included Sodium Ion rechargeable batteries that are intended for use with power grids that specifically use green energy such as solar and wind. These batteries did not have a true release date, so they may be years away. Meanwhile the Earth continues to suffer simply because we cannot store the potential energy that we are harnessing with our alternative power arrays.

To help combat this, the University of Southern California in the United States has recently unveiled their new Iron-Air batteries.

Iron-Air Technology

The Iron-Air technology is unlike anything we have covered previously. Our other installments focused primarily on using the same basic premise that exists in current rechargeable batteries, namely employing charged ions suspended in metal to hold on to power. Iron-Air batteries instead use a natural chemical process that occurs when iron comes into contact with oxygen. The reaction is similar to the energy generated when iron rusts.

Iron-Air technology has been tried before, nearly 40 years ago when disco was hot and hair was big. It failed at the time because the batteries would quickly drain off the power they had stored. This was due to a second chemical reaction that happened inside the hydrogen of the battery. The battery would bleed off nearly 50% of a charge very quickly, making it impractical and inefficient.

The solution was to add a preservative called bismuth sulfide, which is commonly used to help enhance the shelf-life of digestive aids such as Pepto-Bismol. This slowed the energy drop from 50% to a mere 4% and helped to inhibit large draws on the battery, making it more effective at discharging slowly. This is perfect for large-storage, slow-drain usage which is best for batteries powering an energy grid.

A More Practical Choice

The Iron-Air batteries use a process that occurs in nature, so they are fully biodegradable and do not add dangerous chemicals into the environment. They are also cheaper to produce than almost any other battery. Each Iron-Air battery is estimated to only cost 1/10th of what is required to make a Lithium-Ion battery of comparable size. They are green, they are powerful, and they are inexpensive. An ideal array for helping to make the world a more energy efficient and less destructive place.

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