For renewable energy sources — such as solar and wind power — to truly be considered ‘alternative’ energy sources on a significantly massive scale, the comparable price for their production must equal (or be less than) that of those driven by traditional fossil fuels. Equally important is the effective capture of such energy for later use — after all, without saving it for later, what good is solar power after 10 pm or wind power on a breezeless day?
Thanks to the work of scientists at the National University of Singapore led by Dr. Xie Xian Ning, we may be closer to realizing a closure in the gap between the costs and level of reliability involved with renewable and non-renewable energy sources. The team has designed what is believed to be the world’s first energy storage membrane, and its performance significantly exceeds the storage capabilities and cost of current liquid electrolyte-based batteries and capacitors.
Delivering the soft, malleable energy storage membrane with a polystyrene-based polymer between two metal charging plates allows for the storage of 0.2 farads per square centimeter — much higher than the 1 microfarad per square centimeter currently demonstrated by standard capacitors. While farads and microfarads don’t mean much to the layman (like me), translating what this all means into US dollars might. The cost for storing energy in traditional batteries and capacitors comes to about $7 per farad (2.5 watt hours per dollar). This new energy storage membrane brings it down to about 62 cents per farad (providing an impressive 10-20 watt-hours per dollar).
Dr. Xie says: “Compared to rechargeable batteries and supercapacitors, the proprietary membrane allows for very simple device configuration and low fabrication cost. Moreover, the performance of the membrane surpasses those of rechargeable batteries, such as lithium ion and lead-acid batteries, and supercapacitors… With the advent of our novel membrane, energy storage technology will be more accessible, affordable, and producible on a large scale. It is also environmentally-friendly and could change the current status of energy technology.”
If all goes well, be on the lookout for the energy storage membrane in hybrid vehicles, solar panels,
giant death robots wind turbines, and other power generating technologies near you.