Pollutant now valued by renewable energy companies

Posted Oct 20, 2016 by Tim Sandle
At least one organic compound, commonly classed as a pollutant, has the potential to be used to fashion cheap, reliable batteries for use with the energy renewables sector.
Wind Turbine
Wind Turbine
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The development has been pioneered by scientists working at Oregon State University. These batteries, chemists have found, have the potential to store electricity from various clean energy systems, like wind and solar power. The batteries help to boost renewable technologies by storing excess energy when energy generation is plentiful (such as during windy periods or where there is a high level of sunshine) for use at times when energy generation is low.
The chemical compounds of interest are polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. These are organic compounds containing only carbon and hydrogen. The molecules are found in coal and in tar deposits and they are produced when these types of materials are combusted, such as from a coal-burning power plant.
The polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are used by a high-performance cathode in “dual-ion” batteries. These types of batteries have a low internal resistance. This means they allow quick charge and discharge, even in circumstances where a high current is regenerated from large machines and where conventional lithium ion batteries do not work.
Thanks to this new application, the cathodes can use polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. The application of this chemical compound, generally classified as a pollutant, means that there is no need to use expensive rare metals in the battery design.
Trials have taken place using a specific type of hydrocarbon called coronene. This compound is first rendered into a safe, crystallized solid form. This allows a high-functioning electrode material to be produced.
Application of the batteries includes community storage, “smart grid” and micro-grid uses. The lead researcher, Professor Xiulei Ji told Controlled Environments magazine: “We found that coronene crystalline solid, a PAH, can lose electrons and provide a good capacity of anion storage while being structurally and chemically stable. Coronene had good performance as an electrode and the ability to have a very long cycle life, or the number of charges and discharges it can handle.”
The research has been reported to the journal ACS Energy Letters, with the findings headed “A Hydrocarbon Cathode for Dual-Ion Batteries.”