Researchers Develop Metal-Free Electrolyte to Make Large-Capacity Batteries

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Two researchers from the University of Arizona have developed a metal-free electrolyte that they plan to use to make non-toxic batteries that can store large amounts of electricity.

The team of researchers, Thomas Gianetti from the College of Science and College of Medicine, Tucson, and Jules Moutet, his postdoctoral student, have joined hands in this research and is the co-founder of CarbendiumTec, the startup to launch the invention.

Energy storage needs are expected to increase by 3,000 MWh by 2030. The average American home uses almost 11 MWh of energy in a year. Since solar and wind energy is produced intermittently, it must be stored in large quantities for extended periods before it gets used.

Lithium-ion-based batteries are currently dominating the stationary energy storage sector. But they are best suited for 4 to 6 hours of storage. To achieve longer-term emissions and reduction goals and take full advantage of alternative forms of energy, safer and environmentally friendly systems are needed to store energy for 8 to 12 hours.

The current state-of-the-art redox battery technologies use corrosive chemicals that are toxic and difficult to use, expensive, and harmful to the environment. The researchers’ goal is to create a new kind of battery that can store large quantities of energy without using lithium, rare earth metals, heavy metals, or other materials that are toxic and not widely available.

The system Gianetti and Moutet developed leverages a proprietary metal-free, non-toxic electrolyte based on organic chemistry.

The team is working to refine the technology, one battery at a time, and growing the business. Further, it plans to build a small-scale prototype and hopes to secure an initial contract to demonstrate a scaled-up version of the technology soon.

The global market is burgeoning with demand for batteries. Led by China, the Asia-Pacific region accounted for 90% of battery manufacturing worldwide in 2021.

A recent report by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Energy Initiative that studied the role of energy storage technologies using renewable energy sources has established that stored energy can make deep decarbonization of power systems more affordable.