A cheap rechargeable battery that harnesses energy by using the electrochemistry of organic molecules rather than metals is being touted by Harvard researchers as a breakthrough for renewable energy.
The Harvard team reports that the battery, which they say can be applied on a power-grid scale, uses naturally abundant and small organic compounds called quinones rather than electrocatalysts from costly precious metals such as platinum.
Quinones would be inexpensive to obtain and can be found in green plants or synthesized from crude oil. The battery designed by Harvard scientists and engineers used a quinone molecule that’s almost identical to one that’s found in rhubarb.
The technology is outlined in the Jan. 9 edition of the journal Nature.
Unlike solid-electrode batteries, flow batteries are recharged by two chemical components dissolved in fluids that are kept in separate tanks.
The quinones in the Harvard team’s battery are dissolved in water, which also prevents them from catching fire. These hydroquinones would perform a similar function to metal electrocatalysts such as platinum, because the molecules can store electrical energy efficiently.