Apr 22, 2018 | Updated: 09:54 AM EDT

Implications of New Solar Battery—Charging Off Air and Sunlight

Oct 06, 2014 01:42 AM EDT

As a renewable energy source, energy from the sun has been at the epicenter of energy discussions for decades. But the problem lies in harnessing this energy. While solar fission and fusion is still out of the question on the surface of the Earth, solar cells driven by the power of rays of sunlight have made great advancements in recent years. In fact you may even have them on your home. But until now, the energy source could not be placed into moving device as a battery of sorts.

Publishing their work in the newest issue of the journal Nature, researchers at The Ohio State University have created a hybrid device capable of powering the world. Part rechargeable battery, part solar cell, the innovative new technology is unlike other batteries in that it relies predominantly on sunlight and oxygen from air flowing in through the mesh solar panel. As opposed to closed systems typically seen in batteries, the new battery uses air as a catalyst much like in our own processes of energy conversion.

"Basically it's a breathing battery" lead researcher of the study, Yiying Wu says. "It breathes in air when it discharges, and breathes out when it charges."

And other than that, the efficacy and cost of the batteries will also be a breath of fresh air for energy investors. Combatting the longstanding issues with solar energy efficiency, the new design converts nearly 100% of the sunlight energy into electrons within the battery. And this has huge implications for the dropping costs over the long lifespan of the batteries.

"The state of the art technology is to use a solar panel to capture the light, and then use a cheap battery to store the energy" Wu says. "We've integrated both functions into one device, [and] anytime you can do that you reduce costs."

Want to Know How It Works?

Here's what happens inside: During charging, sunlight interacts with the mesh solar panel on the surface, creating electrons inside. Once inside, electrons are involved in a chemical reaction that decomposes lithium peroxide into lithium and oxygen atoms. The oxygen is then in turn released into the air, and the lithium ions, carrying the charge from the chemical reaction, are deposited within the battery as lithium metal.

Once the battery begins to discharge, it chemically consumes oxygen from the air to re-form the lithium peroxide and gives off energy used to power and mobile device.

And it's as simple as that!

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