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Scientists Create Very First Solar Battery that Stores its Own Power

First Posted: Oct 03, 2014 01:21 PM EDT
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Scientists may have created the very first solar battery. Researchers have succeeded in combining a battery and a solar cell into one hybrid device, which could be huge in terms of renewable energy capture and storage.

"The state of the art is to use a solar panel to capture the light, and then use a cheap battery to store the energy," said Yiying Wu, one of the researchers, in a news release. "We've integrated both functions into one device. Any time you can do that, you reduce cost."

The key to the new device is a mesh solar panel, which allows air to enter the battery. There's also a special process for transferring electrons between the solar panel and the battery electrode; inside the device, light and oxygen enable different parts of the chemical reactions that charge the battery.

"Basically, it's a breathing battery," said Wu. "It breathes in air when it discharges, and breathes out when it charges."

The mesh solar panel forms the first electrode. Beneath the mesh is a thin sheet of porous carbon, which acts as the second electrode, and a lithium plate, which acts as the third electrode. Between the electrodes are layers of electrolyte to carry electrons back and forth. During charging, light hits the mesh solar panel and creates electrons. Then inside the battery, electrons are involved in the chemical decomposition of lithium peroxide into lithium ions and oxygen. The oxygen is released into the air, and the lithium ions are stored in the battery as lithium metal after capturing the electrons.

The findings could be huge in terms of creating sustainable energy for powering a variety of devices. Currently, the researchers are continuing to move forward in improving the efficiency of the battery and the amount of power the panel can absorb and convert.

The findings are published in the journal Nature Communications.

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