A team from Pennsylvania State University created an invention that may revolutionize how batteries work. In this new research, experts developed a rechargeable battery that runs on solutions of carbon dioxide and air.
"This work offers an alternative, simpler means to capturing energy from CO2 emissions compared to existing technologies that require expensive catalyst materials and very high temperatures to convert CO2 into useful fuels," team member Christopher Gorski told told Lisa Zyga at Phys.org.
Battery concept from Kim et al. ©2017 American Chemical Society (c) phys.org
The researchers based the concept on a type of battery called a flow cell. They used two containers divided by a semi-porous membrane. The gas from ambient air is dissolved in water, and added to one of the containers using a process called sparging.
The second container holds a similarly sparged mix of water and pure carbon dioxide. When dissolved, the carbon dioxide splits into positively charged hydrogen ions, or plain old protons, and bicarbonate, bringing the pH of the solution down to 7.7. The mixtures then form a gradient in different concentrations of charged particles, since the air-sparged solution has a higher pH of 9.4.
The ions move freely from one solution to the other, though the molecules can't flow across the partition. This results to manganese oxide electrodes in each container experiencing differences in voltage, which in turn produces a current. Then the cell can be recharged simply by switching the solution flowing over each electrode once exhausted.
Wait for this new battery, Captain Jack
The researchers learned they could interchange the solutions back and forth more than 50 times and still maintain the same level of performance. On average, the flow cell produced a power density of 0.82 W/m2 - . The researchers also used materials that are comparatively cheaper.
However, the watt per square meter is relatively small. It's something as small as an average AA battery can roughly produce.
Despite that, this research published in Environmental Science & Technology Letters,
could be humanity's first step towards meeting the middle way between helping with climate change and feeding our growing need for power.