Batteries Of The Future Could Be Made Of Bacteria

REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Scientists announced Wednesday they developed a rechargeable battery powered by bacteria.

The study used two different types of bacteria to first store electricity in the salt acetate, then convert the acetate back into electricity. The scientists managed to successfully charge the battery over a 16-hour period, then discharge it over the next 8 hours and repeated this cycle 15 times over a two-week period. This successfully mimicked the day-night pattern typical for solar energy production.

The scientists hope that, with further refinement, the battery could help wind and solar power become more viable by storing electricity economically.

It is currently impossible to economically store power for times when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. Purchasing enough batteries to provide just three days of storage for an average American household costs about $15,000, and those batteries only last for about five years and are very difficult to recycle.

This is true for home power storage as well, even with cutting-edge batteries. One of Elon Musk’s Tesla Powerwall, capable of storing enough electricity to power a home, costs $7,340 to buy. A conservative analysis estimates that a Powerwall would save its owner $1.06 a day and take roughly 40 years to pay for itself. Naturally, Tesla only offers 5 to 10 year warranties on its Powerwalls, and predicts they will last for only 15 years.

The best way we have of “storing” power is pumping water up a hill, which actually accounts for 99 percent of all global energy storage.

One of the world’s largest and most powerful batteries, located in Fairbanks, Ala., weighs 1,300-metric tons and is larger than a football field. It can only provide enough electricity for about 12,000 residents, or 38 percent of Fairbanks’ population, for seven minutes. That’s useful for short outages, which happen a lot in Alaska, but isn’t effective enough to act as a reserve for solar and wind power.

The research was sponsored by the American Chemical Society and was performed by scientists at Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

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