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New long-lasting solar-flow battery sets efficiency record

A schematic illustration of an integrated solar flow battery is hooked up to tanks of chemicals that can store electricity for later use. Photo by Wenjie Li/University of Wisconsin-Madison 
A schematic illustration of an integrated solar flow battery is hooked up to tanks of chemicals that can store electricity for later use. Photo by Wenjie Li/University of Wisconsin-Madison 

July 13 (UPI) -- U.S. chemists working with Australian researchers have created a long-lasting solar-flow battery that set a record for efficiency, according to a study published Monday in the journal Nature Materials.

The solar-flow battery has a 20 percent efficiency rate of converting energy from the sun, setting a new record of efficiency -- a 40 percent improvement over the previous solar-flow battery record -- according to researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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"While solar flow batteries are years away from commercialization, they offer the potential to provide reliable electricity generation and storage for lighting, cell phones or other fundamentals uses for homes in remote areas," researchers at the university said in a press release.

The UW-Madison chemists worked with University of Sydney and University of New South Wales researchers to create a battery that lasts long, and can store and redeliver renewable energy in one device.

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Chemists in the Song Jin lab of UW-Madison created the battery from silicon tandem solar cells combined with halide perovskite material for photovoltaic cells to capture more energy from the sun.

"Our motivation for the design of the solar cell was to combine these two materials together so we have both high efficiency and good stability," chemist Wenjie Li said.

Back in 2018, the same lab developed a solar flow battery using expensive solar materials that achieved 14 percent efficiency but corrosion reduced the device's lifetime.

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The new solar flow battery's long lifespan and 20 percent efficiency make it the best solar flow battery device yet, researchers say, but real world applications still require more robustness.

The researchers are aiming to develop solar flow batteries that are more energy and cost efficient for commercial use, they said.

"Our eventual goal, if we can make this practical, is to target solar home systems," Li said. "People who don't have electrical grid access could use this devise to have reliable electricity."

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