Researchers at Stanford University have developed a low-cost, high-performance battery with urea for storing energy produced through solar power or other forms of renewable energy.
Unlike lithium-ion batteries, commonly found in small electronics and other devices, the new battery is nonflammable.
The urea is commonly found in fertilizers and mammal urine.
While it contains electrodes made from abundant aluminum and graphite, and urea as its electrolyte's main ingredient, the rule-based aluminum ion batteries can go through about 1,500 charge cycles with a 45-minute charging time.
"So essentially, what you have is a battery made with some of the cheapest and most abundant materials you can find on Earth. And it actually has good performance," said chemistry Professor Hongkie Dai, who worked on the project with doctoral candidate Michael Angell. "Who would have thought you could take graphite, aluminum, urea, and actually make a battery that can cycle for a pretty long time?"
The researchers have reported their work in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and licensed the battery patents to AB Systems.
In 2015, Dai's lab was the first to make a rechargeable aluminum battery system that charged in less than a minute and lasted thousands of charge-discharge cycles. However, that version of the battery had one major drawback: it involved an expensive electrolyte. The newest version is about 100 times cheaper than the 2015 model.
As the demand for renewable technologies grows, so does the need for cheap, efficient batteries to store the energy for release at night. "With this battery, the dream is for solar energy to be stored in every building and every home," Dai was quoted as saying in a news release from Stanford. "Maybe it will change everyday life. We don't know."