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Ohio Researchers Develop First Aqueous Solar Flow Battery that Saves 20% Energy, Hope 80% Next

Doctoral students Billy McCulloch (left) and Mingzhe Yu (right) of The Ohio State University with a prototype of the new aqueous solar flow battery. CREDIT Image by Kevin Fitzsimons, courtesy of The Ohio State University.

Doctoral students Billy McCulloch (left) and Mingzhe Yu (right) of The Ohio State University with a prototype of the new aqueous solar flow battery.
CREDIT
Image by Kevin Fitzsimons, courtesy of The Ohio State University.

Ohio researchers, who are leading in solar cell research, have come out with patent-pending design that clubs together a battery and a solar cell into one device, achieving 20 percent energy saving over lithium iodine batteries.

Their design consists of a solid solar panel sheet instead of a mesh and it uses a water-based electrolyte inside the battery. The saving of the 20% energy comes from sunlight, said Yiying Wu, a professor at Ohio State University.

Since water is used, the new design belongs to aqueous flow batteries, which scientists have demonstrated successfully in their solar battery, which is the first of its kind aqueous battery with solar capability.

The researchers charged and discharged the batteries 25 times and each time, both batteries discharged around 3.3 volts. With less charging, the solar flow battery could produce the same output as traditional battery, which had to be charged to 3.6 volts to discharge 3.3 volts.

The solar flow battery was charged to only 2.9 volts, because the solar panel made up the difference. That’s an energy savings of nearly 20 percent.

“It’s also totally compatible with current battery technology, very easy to integrate with existing technology, environmentally friendly and easy to maintain,” wxplained Wu.

The new solar flow battery can be scaled up to grid-level energy conversion and storage, besides producing ‘electrolyte fuels’ that might be used to power future electric vehicles, added lead researcher Mingzhe Yu, a doctoral student at Ohio State.wu

Yu had earlier developed a solar panel out of titanium mesh through which air can pass through to the battery and his latest design does away with the need for air to function.

The new solar flow battery has immense potential, said co-author Billy Mculloch. “We hope to motivate the research community to further develop this technology into a practical renewable energy solution,” he added.

The team is currently focusing on the ultimate goal to boost the solar cell’s contribution to the battery past its current 20 percent–maybe even to 100 percent.

“That’s our next step,” Wu said, “to really achieve a fully solar-chargeable battery.”

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