Developing zinc-air batteries for renewable energy

(Nanowerk News) Renewable energies such as solar and wind power need reliable storage technologies if they are to supply energy when consumers need it. A research project is working to develop a new class of small, low-cost batteries based on zinc-air flow technologies.
If renewable energies such as solar power and wind are to offer alternatives to fossil fuels, they need to prove they can deliver reliable power when consumers need it. A key aspect of this is to improve energy-storage technologies as current solutions have a number of limitations in terms of weight, capacity and cost.
An EU-funded project, 'Zinc-air flow batteries for electrical power distribution networks' (POWAIR), is developing a new class electrical energy-storage system with high-energy density, modularity, fast responses and low costs.
POWAIR, a four-year project ending in 2014, looked first at potential applications and their requirements before starting to design their system components. Another key consideration was to consider cost implications from the outset.
Drawn from leading research institutes and technology companies, the project team has collaborated to design new energy-storage technologies, together with an accompanying modular power converter and system controller. The rechargeable zinc-air battery developed uses an air electrode for one half-cell reaction, which increases energy density, and an alkali electrolyte in which the metal is highly soluble. Their innovative catalyst system comes at a low cost and is stable with performance exceeding that of precious metal systems.
The POWAIR team is optimising the engineering of the battery unit cells and scaling them up. Another important focus is to engage with investors and partners to ensure the innovative technology can be commercialised very soon after the end of the project.
By developing technologies that are ready for industrialisation, the POWAIR project has progressed towards a radically different model for energy distribution one that is more sustainable and secure.
Source: Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems
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