In our fight against global warming and further climate change, the elimination of carbon emissions is a paramount goal. Vital to this effort are renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar, and geothermal, which do not produce planet-warming emissions. Many of these sources have a drawback of intermittency – solar panels produce little power during the night – so they need to be supplemented with batteries to store energy for the times when little is being produced. Research into battery optimization makes up some of the most important science being conducted today, and researchers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology have just released a study on a novel solution: a carbon/air battery.
The study, published in Journal of Power Sciences, proposes a “‘carbon/air secondary battery’ (CASB) system” as a means of efficient energy storage. The system works similarly to the more established technology of hydrogen batteries, except that it uses carbon instead of hydrogen. The main premise is that when excess electricity is being produced, such as from solar panels at noon, the excess is used to perform some chemical reaction, in this case carbon dioxide is turned into plain carbon through electrolysis. Then, when energy production wanes and more electricity is needed, the carbon is oxidized with normal air, and the chemical reaction produces electricity.
In a press release, study co-author and Tokyo Tech Professor Manabu Ihara summarized the process succinctly, saying that “similar to a battery, the CASB is charged using the energy generated by the renewable sources to reduce CO2 to C. During the subsequent discharge phase, the C is oxidized to generate energy.”
This novel system may also boast greater efficiency than its energy-storing predecessors. Prof. Ihara went on to say that “compared to hydrogen storage systems, the CASB system is expected to have a smaller system size and higher system efficiency.”
Carbon emissions present an unprecedented threat to our planet and way of life. New scientific discoveries and developments will ideally assist in our buffeting of this threat, and, while it may seem paradoxical, it seems right that we might find a way to use carbon in our fight against these carbon emissions.
Article Image Source: Tokyo Tech