A new material able to store unprecedented amounts of energy and revolutionize batteries, the car industry and renewable energy sector has been discovered by Washington State University scientists by using pressures similar to those found deep in the Earth.
Choong-Shik Yoo, a WSU chemistry professor says this material is “the most condensed form of energy storage outside of nuclear energy.” The researchers show how a diamond anvil cell containing xenon difluoride (XeF2), which is otherwise used as a white crystal that etches silicon conductors, can squeeze it at extremely high pressures in a 3×2 inch-diameter device.
The XeF2′s molecules are relatively distant at normal pressures. When the pressure inside the diamond anvil cell is increased, the materials become a two-dimensional graphite-like semiconductor. If the pressure is further increased to more than 1 million atmospheres, it cause the molecules to bond to each other and create three-dimensional metallic “network structures”, storing the mechanical energy put into squeezing the XeF2 into chemical energy, in the molecular bonds.
The first thing I can think of is using these storage devices in car batteries, and as a buffer for clean energy, which comes intermittently from the source (sun, wind etc).
I sent an e-mail to Mr. Yoo today, asking what the reverse process or re-obtaining the energy from the chemical bonds would look like and how efficient would the entire system be. When/if Mr. Yoo responds to the e-mail, I will publish that information immediately, so stay tuned.
Update: Mr. Yoo was kind enough to answer my e-mail:
It is a chemical energy that comes out from a chemical fuel cell. It stores a large mechanical energy (PdV; huge P and dV) into a chemical bond energy (a few eV per iÃ¢â‚¬Â¦; or 10-50 eV/nm). The reverse process is to talking out these chemical energy into whatever forms – heat or electricity (if you put a pair of electrode).
As for the efficiency of such device is a bit premature to estimate. Having discovered such novel forms of materials (proof-of-the-principle), the next step is to develop a synthetic method amenable to scale up and recovery. Then, one can think about all kinds of applications.