A battery inspired by vitamins

A battery inspired by vitamins

November 21, 2019 3 By William Morgan


Jordan D’Eri: What oh
what can you tell me Vitamin B 12, vitamin E, good for the skin,
great for the… Charlie Heck: What are you
doing now, Jordan? Jordan D’Eri: Well if you must know…I’m trying
to get inspired Charlie Heck: Umm, are you playing
with vitamins? Jordan D’Eri: Hey listen, if it works
for researchers at Harvard, it works for me Charlie Heck: I think we are going
to need to expand on this for the viewers at home. First let’s start
with renewable energy, it’s awesome! But, what happens
when there isn’t any wind to spin those blades or sun
to charge those solar panels? How do we keep
the lights on? Jordan D’Eri: Well,
let’s get real science. In 2014, a team of researchers
at Harvard replaced metal ions used as conventional battery electrolyte materials in acidic electrolytes
with quinones, molecules that store energy
in plants and animals. They created a “flow battery” that stored energy
in these quinones and in a common
food additive. Charlie Heck: And that advance
was a game changer! Delivering the first
high-performance, non-flammable, non-toxic, non-corrosive, and low-cost chemicals that could enable
large-scale, inexpensive electricity storage. Jordan D’Eri: Flow batteries
and store energy in solutions
in external tanks — the bigger the tanks,
the more energy they store. Charlie Heck: Now, that same team
has identified a whole new class of molecules, inspired by vitamin B2… that can safely store electricity from intermittent energy sources like solar and wind power
in large batteries. Jordan D’Eri: You see,
B2 helps to store energy from food in our bodies. The key difference
between B2 and quinones is that nitrogen atoms,
instead of oxygen atoms, are involved in picking up
and giving off electrons. Charlie Heck: And with only
a couple of tweaks to the original B2 molecule, this new group of molecules
becomes a good candidate for alkaline flow batteries. Because vitamins
are remarkably easy to make, the researchers say this molecule
could be manufactured on a large scale
at a very low cost. Charlie Heck: Wait a minute,
Jordan are these gummy vitamins? Jordan D’Eri: Yeah, you know I looked
for the ones with the dinosaur shapes but I couldn’t find them. Charlie Heck: Maybe they’re extinct! HIYOOO!
Charlie Heck: Nailed it! Music ###