Scientists at Penn State University are changing the properties of flow batteries and by doing so, can turn carbon dioxide (CO2) into usable energy. Still, in its development phase, the flow battery will be instrumental in eradicating our reliance on fossil fuels – especially those being generated from power stations.
The Penn State Study
Capable of yielding two hundred times more power per unit of size than any other flow battery experiments, Penn State’s study is truly groundbreaking. According to Christopher A. Gonski in a recent interview with Phys.org, “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 temps to convert CO2 into useful fuels.”
Since flow batteries contain “two channels of liquid divided by a membrane that prevents them from mixing,” PSU scientists, according to a recent Futurism article, “placed a sodium bicarbonate and water solution with air on one side, and dissolved CO2 in between manganese oxide electrons on the other.” The end result: higher concentration of protons that creates the current and generates electricity. Tests, according to Phys.org, show that once the flow cell is discharged, it will recharge by switching back the channel’s solution flow.
“We are currently looking to see how the solution conditions can be optimized to maximize the amount of energy produced,” Gorski said. “We are also investigating if we can dissolve chemicals in the water that exhibit pH-dependent redox properties, thus allowing us to increase the amount of energy that can be recovered.”
The Ultimate Recycling Machine
Already being called, “the ultimate recycling machine,” Penn State’s flow battery is capable of turning CO2 into energy but lacks the one thing that haunts all batteries: power density. With battery capacity innovation comes an affordable way to generate electricity from CO2. In a world in desperate need to find renewable energy sources, PSU’s flow battery could replace the countless power stations still relying on fossil fuels.
“A battery like this could potentially help to lessen the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere and minimize our current influence on climate change.”