I always like battery news, because they are so different every time. We have all the power we need, and besides capturing power from nature we also need to store it somewhere to use it. Chemical batteries are the best option nowadays, but have a downside: they’re heavy, thus having a bad energy density.
Scientists from the University of St. Andrews, partnering with Strathclyde and Newcastle have discovered a method of making clean batteries that also have a chemical reaction, but do not carry a chemical component used in batteries today. Instead, they use a reaction with the oxygen drawn from the air to generate electricity.
The battery is called STAIR (St Andrews Air), and should be cheaper than current rechargeable batteries. The oxygen, drawn in through a surface of the battery exposed to air, reacts within the pores of the carbon to discharge the battery. “Not only is this part of the process free, the carbon component is much cheaper than current technology,” says Professor Peter Bruce of the Chemistry Department at St Andrews. He estimates that it will be at least five years before the STAIR cell is commercially available.
STAIR is also long-lasting: the project 8 times longer than a lithium cobalt oxide battery. The overall goal was to achieve a battery with 5 to 10 times more lifetime.
The team is now working on a prototype to be used on small applications such as MP3 players, to demonstrate their concept. Let’s hope the researchers will also find a solution to not using lithium anymore, bring mining for battery chemicals to an end, and pass us into the next era of carbon-based electronics. This seems to be the trend everybody begins to follow in their inventions, anyway.