Think about an energy storage device that can store intermittent solar and wind energy in the form of hydrogen gas…..a kind of manganese-hydrogen battery. This water-based battery is under prototype development at Stanford University, and if successfully scaled up, can be recycled 10,000 times for use directly on the utility grid.
Manganese sulfate, a cheap, abundant industrial salt that is used to make dry cell batteries, fertilizers, paper and other products is the secret sauce in this technology; allowing hydrogen to be formed and stored and converted back to electricity later.
The Stanford team, working under US Department of Energy funding, estimates that over the expected lifetime of the energy storage system (10 years), it would cost a penny to store enough electricity to power a 100 watt lightbulb for twelve hours.
According to DOE estimates, about 70 percent of U.S. electricity is generated by coal or natural gas plants, which account for 40 percent of carbon dioxide emissions. Shifting to wind and solar generation is one way to reduce those emissions but it creates new challenges involving the variability of power supply.
The Stanford team is now performing some heavy duty engineering to meet demanding grid-scale performance criteria. The palm-size prototype uses platinum as a catalyst to spur crucial chemical reactions. This material is expensive, so the team is concerned with cheaper ways to make the manganese sulfate and water combination charge and discharge correctly.
Editor’s Deep Dive