As new energy sources are being considered and further developed, scientists have already began focusing on smaller sources. A team of researchers at the University of Southern California are working on a new battery that possesses superior properties to lithium-ion batteries.

The new technology is called an organic redux flow battery. The scientists say it is cheap, environmentally friendly, and holds the potential to store large amounts of energy in wind and solar power plants. These batteries would allow for greater use and are devoid of any heat issues and toxic elements that lithium-ion batteries are troubled with.

The inside of the battery features two tanks that contain solutions of electroactive chemicals. Both solutions are pumped into a cell (that's divided by a membrane) and then interact through that membrane, allowing for the production of electricity. The total amount of energy that the system can store is dependent on the size of the tanks, which can be of any size in comparison to the cells.

"Such organic flow batteries will be game-changers for grid electrical energy storage in terms of simplicity, cost, reliability and sustainability," said Surya Prakash, professor of chemistry and director of the USC Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute, in this Science 2.0 article.

"'Mega-scale' energy storage is a critical problem in the future of the renewable energy, requiring inexpensive and eco-friendly solutions," added Sri Narayan, a professor of chemistry at USC.

In their experiments, the researchers found that oxidized organic compounds called quinones - which are found in plants, fungi, bacteria, and some animals - can be used to power the battery. Prakash and Narayan say that this will have minimal harm on the environment because such molecules are a natural source of energy transfer. The quinones used in the new battery are anthraquinone-2-sulfonic acid or anthraquinone-2,6-disulfonic acid on the negative side, and 1,2-dihydrobenzoquinone- 3,5-disulfonic acid on the positive side of the cell.

The USC study, "An Inexpensive Aqueous Flow Battery for Large-Scale Electrical Energy Storage Based on Water-Soluble Organic Redox Couples," was published in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society on June 19. The team has filed several patents for the design of the battery, with their next focus being on a larger scale version.

You can read more about the new water-based and eco-friendly battery in this GizMag article.