Researchers develop a "pee-powered battery" for grid storage of electricity generated from wind and solar - chaprama | Insights from the world of Technology and Lifestyle


Saturday, February 11, 2017

Researchers develop a "pee-powered battery" for grid storage of electricity generated from wind and solar

Making a battery is so simple that we can make a battery from lemon juice and most of us made it in our school days. But, making a commercially viable battery is challenging for a researcher. Making a viable battery from readily available cheap sources is the greatest challenge for a researcher. 

The latest development in this regard has come from researchers from Stanford University who made an aluminum ion battery that uses an electrolyte made of urea (the main component of urine).

Researchers develop pee-powered battery for grid storage of electricity generated from wind and solar

Pee-Powered Batteries made in past:

This is not the first ever made pee powered battery. Researchers at the University of Bath created a microbial fuel cell that is powered by human urine.Researchers in West England built a urinal that converts urine directly to electricity. We will also cover about these batteries in our next article. Let us first understand about the latest aluminum ion battery.

The battery is designed for grid storage of electricity produced from renewable sources like wind and solar. This battery is actually the upgrade of the aluminum ion battery first designed by Stanford professor Hongjie Dai and his team in 2015. The original battery used a chemical mixture called EMIC (1-ethyl-3-methylimidazolium chloride) as the main electrolyte ingredient, which is then mixed with aluminum chloride to produce liquid salt, or ionic liquid.

Cost-effectiveness of using Urea:

EMIC is found to be costly and commercially not viable due to its higher price. This lead for researchers to explore a cheap and readily available material. The new battery is same for everything except for the use of urea instead of EMIC. Urea is 100 times cheaper than EMIC and readily available and produced commercially as fertilizer.

This battery does not have the same energy as that of Lithium-ion battery. But, the discharge rate is higher, nonflammable, charges in 45 minutes, and is much cheaper than any alternate source.

Energy efficiency of urea powered battery

Researchers also found that the battery powered by urea has a higher Coulombic efficiency, 99.7 percent, which suggests that the cycle life is very long. Coulombic efficiency is a measure of the amount of charge we get back from the battery, divided by the amount of charge we put on it originally.

For commercial viability, a grid storage battery should have at least 10 years lifespan. This urea powered battery has 1,500 charge cycles in lab conditions and researchers are also trying to push this further beyond 1,500 charge cycles.

If produced on a large scale, EMIC was estimated to cost about US$50/kg, while urea currently costs $0.50/kg when produced on large scale. There is such a drastic reduction in input costs when urea is used as an electrolyte. 


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