It’s not breaking news anymore, but some scientists from the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and others, led by Stuart Licht, discovered a battery that could kick out fossil fuels at the chapter of energy storage capacity.
Since they were invented, batteries could only be used in small-scale applications, such as powering your watch, or your laptop, or giving short time bursts, like spinning an engine to start it. Modern times batteries, based on Li-Ion have more power, but their energy storing capacity still cannot reach the one of diesel or gasoline. It’s easy to understand, in these circumstances, why we are still using these fossil fuel based products.
Let’s get back to our subject: the battery invented by these fellows is half a battery, half a chemical fuel cell.
Its negative electrode, or cathode, is made from vanadium boride. This serves double-duty as a fuel too. Unlike the flowing fuel of a fuel cell, the material is held internally, like the anode material of a battery.
The vanadium boride reacts with a constant stream of oxygen, as in a fuel cell, provided by the positive electrode, or anode. This brings in a supply of air from outside.
The scientific (chemical) explanation can’t be described here, as it involves calculations, graphs and many assumptions. You may find it here, if you’re good at understanding chemical reactions (I’m not keen at that, I admit).
The cell has a theoretical energy capacity of 27 kilowatt hours per litre, compared to 9.7 kilowatt hours per litre for gasoline. But both approaches are limited by practical factors to smaller figures.
Licht says his new system would likely have a real, usable energy capacity of around 5 kilowatt hours per litre. “But that’s two-fold higher than the practical storage capacity of gasoline,” he says.