Sustainable and reliable energy storage is paramount to modern technological advances. Though there have been breakthroughs, things are still not quite at the level technologists and businesses have expected. Still, there are notable developments in the public and private sectors.
Exponential technological advancements, combined with breakthroughs like those related to quantum computing, will revitalize the industry. Given the public and private sector advancement, however, how this will happen is yet undetermined.
There are multiple areas of innovation to watch in 2022. We’ll cover a few prospects that may soon be the go-to not just for individual use, but also for industrial implementation. These include:
- Sodium (Na) Ion Batteries
- Batteries of the “Solid State” Variety
- Advances Owing to Electrical Vehicles
- Graphene as an Energy Storage Option
- Flexible “Thin Film” Printed Batteries
- Electrolyte Storage Through Redox Flow Batteries
- Lithium-Ion and an Increase in Demand, Plus Recycling
- Gravitational Batteries, Cryogenic Air Storage, and “Green Hydrogen”
Sodium (Na) Ion Batteries
Sodium-Ion batteries (Na-ion) show substantial promise and work similarly to lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries. They have slightly more power and cycle capability. Unfortunately, cathodes utilize nickel and cobalt, so Na-ion batteries are not quite as sustainable as many would like.
Batteries of the “Solid State” Variety
We’ll discuss electric vehicles in greater detail shortly. First, let’s look at “solid-state” batteries.
Chemical improvements include an anode of lithium metal that expands energy density, subsequently expanding performance capabilities. As yet, mass production isn’t streamlined, though the process is picking up steam. There is available research in this field as regards solid-state batteries.
Advances Owing to Electrical Vehicles
There’s a bright spot for electric vehicles (EVs). EVs need to store substantial quantities of energy that can be used in conjunction with varying features.
Without efficient energy storage, vehicles like Elon Musk’s Tesla wouldn’t be viable. Since present options are not yet optimal, companies are continuously seeking more efficient means of energy storage, changing the industry.
Graphene as an Energy Storage Option
For a while, graphene was touted as the solution that would overcome this energy issue. In 2004, graphene was discovered as a sort of energy “source” for batteries. In laboratory conditions, graphene has yielded notable results that the market still has not realized.
Basically, graphene derives from graphite (what’s used in pencils). Graphite is a 3D arrangement of atoms, graphene being that arrangement in 2D. Only an atom in thickness, graphene is over a hundred times stronger than steel–just two layers is effectively “bulletproof”. Its close atomic structure makes it a fine electrical conductor. The link in this section goes over these things in detail.
Here’s the bottom line: As of 2020, Real Graphene USA managed to design a graphene battery. A graphene battery used in a smartphone would charge in about half the time a Li-ion battery would. Is it safe? Real Graphene USA says it is.
Flexible “Thin Film” Printed Batteries
Printed batteries have been an exceptionally popular energy storage option, and some are already used in specific applications. The issue is about a more universal application of this storage innovation. Competition grows throughout the industry, There’s a full report about this.
Electrolyte Storage Through Redox Flow Batteries
Electrolytes are used to store energy in Redox Flow Batteries (RFBs). Because electrolyte storage is separated from the electrochemical cell in the unit, these batteries are ideal for long-term storage needs where they rest dormant.
Vanadium is the expensive key element involved in RFBs. That said, there exist less costly all-iron-based options. RFB designs are improving continually. Also, organic compounds can be used as electrolyte storage. The potential is there; the solidification of a balanced solution has yet to be finalized.
Lithium-Ion and an Increase in Demand, Plus Recycling
Because Li-ion batteries are very efficient, there’s quite a high demand for them. That demand is forecast to expand. The issue is, these batteries require lithium mining, which tends to be bad for the environment. Still, since they’re used in electric cars, expect demand to continue and possibly increase as EVs become more mainstream.
While Li-ion sustainability isn’t quite the same as that of “fossil fuels”, it’s still not a perfect option due to the mining issue. Li-ion recycling is picking up steam to facilitate greater sustainability overall. Basically, End Of Life (EOL) batteries can be refined and reused. This reduces the total burden despite being a less than ideal solution.
Gravitational Batteries, Cryogenic Air Storage, and “Green Hydrogen”
Other relevant options have no electrochemical elements at all. For example, gravity batteries use the force of gravity to generate energy. You can find some on the market right now that work like cuckoo clocks. Just reset the “weight”. Still, there are serious drawbacks to gravitational batteries and, except in niche applications, they’re not quite viable.
Compressed air energy storage using cryogenic techniques involving liquid oxygen has some applications. “Green hydrogen” promises to work well for long-term storage needs. Basically, hydrogen is produced from water and stored for later. The issue lies in the feasibility of storing flammable hydrogen.
The Future of Energy Storage
The overall outlook for energy sectors as regards storage is bright. However, no current solution outpaces traditional Li-ion options for now. In spite of this, notable prospects are more viable than ever. Keeping pace with developments will help your business onboard the most sustainable options that become available.