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The design of the batteries is similar to how a fuel cell works, with two tanks of electrically active materials dissolved in water. They discovered that quinones - naturally occurring, oxidised compounds found in plants, fungi and bacteria that help with photosynthesis and cellular respiration - were the perfect fit. The team identified this energy storage gem after realizing the new battery works in a different way than they had assumed. PNNL’s improved aqueous zinc-manganese oxide battery offers a cost-effective, environmentally friendly alternative for storing renewable energy and supporting the power grid. After years of focusing on rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, researchers are used to thinking about the back-and-forth shuttle of lithium ions.
After a battery of tests, the team was surprised to realize their device was undergoing an entirely different process.
Liu and his colleagues started investigating rechargeable zinc-manganese batteries because they are attractive on paper. So they built their own battery with a negative zinc electrode, a positive manganese dioxide electrode and a water-based electrolyte in between the two. To find out, they first performed a detailed chemical and structural analysis of the electrolyte and electrode materials.
Digging deeper, they examined the electrodes with several advanced instruments with a variety of scientific techniques, including Transmission Electron Microscopy, Nuclear Magnetic Resonance and X-Ray Diffraction. Typically, zinc-manganese oxide batteries significantly lose storage capacity after just a few cycles. So they added manganese ions to the electrolyte in a new test battery and put the revised battery through another round of tests. Liu sums up, “This research shows equilibrium needs to be controlled during a chemical conversion reaction to improve zinc-manganese oxide battery performance. The team will continue their studies of the zinc-manganese oxide battery’s fundamental operations.

First National Battery manufactures and distributes a range of solar power cells specifically designed for solar power installations. The batteries are charged at a current equivalent to 0.1 times the capacity expressed in Ampere hours (Ah) for a maximum of 15 hours. The duration of the recharge will depend on the extent of the discharge that the battery has experienced. First National Battery manufactures a wide range of battery products across diverse industries. Because solar panels can only generate power when the sun is up, and wind turbines can only generate power when there’s enough wind to propel them, power companies have been reluctant to use them.
The new battery could become a cost-effective, environmentally friendly alternative for storing renewable energy and supporting the power grid. Lithium-ion batteries store and release energy through a process called intercalation, which involves lithium ions entering and exiting microscopic spaces in between the atoms of a battery’s two electrodes.
Instead of simply moving the zinc ions around, their zinc-manganese oxide battery was undergoing a reversible chemical reaction that converted its active materials into entirely new ones.
They can be as inexpensive as the lead-acid batteries because they use abundant, inexpensive materials (zinc and manganese). They put small, button-sized test batteries through the wringer, repeatedly charging and discharging them.
They were surprised to not find evidence of zinc interacting with manganese oxide during the battery’s charge and discharge processes, as they had initially expected would happen.
The instruments used were located at both PNNL and the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL), a DOE Office of Science user facility located at PNNL. Knowing the battery underwent chemical conversions, they determined the rate of manganese dissolution could be slowed down by increasing the electrolyte’s initial manganese concentration. This time around, the test battery was able to reach a storage capacity of 285 milliAmp-hours per gram of manganese oxide over 5,000 cycles, while retaining 92 percent of its initial storage capacity.

Congratulations to the team for getting the basic answers and making a potentially useful product from something not so very useful. As an example the 50 Ah type RR1 battery that has been utilised for 3 hours for lighting a 100W lamp would have consumed 24.9 Ah and therefore must be charged at 5 Ampere for approximately 6 hours. But having large batteries on hand to store excess energy that can be used as needed means those gaps in sun and wind power can be filled.
As others had found before them, their test battery quickly lost its ability to store energy after just a few charging cycles. The unexpected finding led them to wonder if the battery didn’t undergo a simple intercalation process as they had previously thought. Combining these techniques revealed manganese oxide was reversibly reacting with protons from the water-based electrolyte, which created a new material, zinc hydroxyl sulfate. But after some manganese dissolves into the electrolyte, the battery gradually stabilizes and the storage capacity levels out, though at a much lower level. They will also tinker with the battery’s electrolyte to see how additional changes affect its operation.
They offer higher cycle life and a lower discharge rate than cells in conventional applications. The PNNL scientists hoped they could produce a better-performing battery by digging deeper into the inner workings of the zinc-manganese oxide battery. Perhaps the zinc-manganese battery is less like a lithium-ion battery and more like the traditional lead-acid battery, which also relies on chemical conversion reactions.

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Comments Battery offers renewable energy breakthrough

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