Iron-air batteries could store and discharge energy for far longer and at less cost than lithium-ion

A new battery design holds out the potential for great improvements over the current industry leading lithium-ion battery.

Designed by a Massachusetts company that is run by a former Tesla executive, the battery technology could be far less expensive, as well as increase the discharge time from the current 4 hours of Lithium-ion to 100 hours.

The founders of the company share a goal to reshape the global electric system by creating a new class of low-cost multiday storage batteries.

The implications for solar energy systems are nothing less than breathtaking.

Scientific American reports:

“A U.S. company is designing a large battery that it says could help decarbonize the nation’s power sector more cheaply than lithium-ion storage systems—and with domestic materials.

The concept, known as the “iron-air battery,” has impressed U.S. experts. Unlike current lithium-ion batteries that require expensive materials mostly from other countries such as lithium, cobalt, nickel and graphite, the proposed battery stores electricity using widely available iron metal.

It operates on what scientists call the principle of “reversible rusting.” The low cost and high availability of iron could allow iron-air batteries to store electricity for several days during periods of low solar and wind power generation. One such iron-air battery is being designed by Form Energy, a company based in Massachusetts that’s co-run by a former Tesla Inc. official.

Although iron-air batteries were first studied in the early 1970s for applications such as electric vehicles, more recent research suggests that it may be a “leading contender” to expand the nation’s future supplies of green electric power for utilities, according to George Crabtree, director of the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research at Argonne National Laboratory.

Lithium-ion batteries, which are used in cars and for utility-scale storage, discharge electric power for about four hours. The much larger iron-air battery can store and then discharge power for as long as 100 hours, giving utilities four days of electricity to bridge renewable power gaps that can occur in U.S. grids.

Crabtree, a physicist, predicted that the iron-air battery would also help the U.S. decarbonize industrial operations and buttress the Defense Department’s plans to rely more on renewable energy.

You can read the entire story at Scientific American.

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