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Rhubarb: Great for Pie…and Batteries?


Harvard scientists announced in the most recent issue of Nature that they have developed a flow-battery that stores energy using a naturally occurring organic molecule. Flow-batteries, a type of rechargeable battery, store chemical energy in two large tanks of liquid. That energy is then converted to electricity by passing ions between the two tanks.

In the past, flow-batteries have commonly used metals to hold energy in reserve, but now a team of scientists have produced similar results in a lab using quinones—molecules that occur naturally in crude oil and green plants. The particular quinone used in this study is nearly identical to that found in rhubarb. Quinones are naturally abundant, inexpensive, and stable, making flow-batteries a viable alternative to common metal based batteries. Researchers do not expect this particular quinone to produce adequate energy for industrial use, but they are confident that other plants will offer molecules to produce greater results.

As flow-batteries continue to be refined, they are expected to be among the safest and cheapest forms of energy storage and could be available commercially in as few as three years. Until, then, hold on to your salad plates lest a wandering scientist tries to make a battery out of your beets.

For the full story, click here.

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