New Sugar Battery Could Unlock Major Breakthrough in Renewable Energy Transition

A group of scientists have used sugar as a basis to create a new battery capable of storing energy for more than a year. This new sugar alternative could significantly assist in the renewable energy transition. Typically, fossil fuels have been used as a back up for when solar and wind energy are not feasible. With this new battery, sugar could become a viable replacement.

The US Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) are responsible for the discovery, which was made whilst researching flow batteries.

Using two liquid-filled chambers to produce an electrochemical reaction, flow batteries have the potential to store vast amounts of energy. With the possibility of scaling them up to huge sizes, comparable to a football field, the batteries currently rely on materials which are very difficult and costly to obtain and refine.

Wei Wang, lead researcher on the batteries, commented “this is a brand-new approach to developing flow battery electrolyte…We showed that you can use a totally different type of catalyst designed to accelerate energy conversion.”

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The new sugar-based system was able to achieve 60% more peak power than other methods. It was also capable of storing and releasing energy for over a year.

With sugar being a sustainable source of power, Imre Gyuk, director of energy storage research at the Department of Energy, Office of Electricity, stated “We cannot always dig the Earth for new materials.”

They go on to add, “we need to develop a sustainable approach with chemicals that we can synthesize in large amounts – just like the pharmaceutical and the food industries.”

Whilst still in the early days of development, this major breakthrough could provide an affordable and accessible alternative to fossil fuels. One of the key challenges to researchers and scientists now is finding a suitable backup for solar and wind. As neither are viable at all times, back up generators are needed to carry on when energy cannot be generated through these means. Typically, that is often done with fossil fuels.

If sugar can replicate this long term whilst also providing a steady supply of energy, then it could be an excellent renewable energy source.