Thomas Edison did far more than invent light bulbs. He tinkered with zinc batteries a century ago but was unable to come up with a technically workable solution. A biotech entrepreneur and surgeon originally from South Africa wondered “what if zinc batteries could work with renewable micro storage”. And he has found a way to do so with zinc air batteries.
How Zinc Air Batteries Could Change Third World Lives
Dr. Soon-Shiong’s zinc air batteries lack toxic compounds, are not flammable and can be disposed of safely. Moreover, they are rechargeable and come close to the magic price of $100 per kilowatt hour.
This cost factor is extremely important if we are to create a carbon-free grid. And furthermore one that operates even when the sun is down and the wind abates. Australia and China share half the world’s zinc resources, while the US has only 5% and 7% of production. At the current rate, the world could run out of zinc in 25 years so this is only a stop-gap solution for micro grid storage.
Learn the Basics of Zinc Air Batteries Prior to This Discovery
Zinc Air Battery Technology – The Basics
Mechanically-rechargeable zinc-air batteries are metal-air batteries that oxidize zinc with oxygen from the air. They have high energy density, and are relatively cheap to make. Applications range from tiny hearing aids to electric vehicles.
Zinc particles soaked in an electrolyte form a porous anode during discharge. Oxygen from the air reacts at the cathode to form hydroxyl ions which migrate into the zinc paste. These form zincate releasing electrons to travel to the cathode.
More than 110 villages in Asia and Africa receive their power from solar panels, and zinc oxygen batteries. Scientists at Dr. Soon-Shiong’s company believe their zinc batteries could significantly lower the cost of battery storage.
Preview Image: Scaleable Zinc Air Batteries
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