Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Super battery is most powerful energy storage ever (besides nuclear power)

Washington State University researchers created a super battery. Using similar pressures to what is found in the center of the earth, the researchers created a new material that could store unprecedented amounts of energy.

“If you think about it, it is the most condensed form of energy storage outside of nuclear energy,” says Choong-Shik Yoo, a WSU chemistry professor and lead author of results published in the journal Nature Chemistry.

While the science is still fundamental, it’s still fun to consider what the applications would be:
-new energetic material or fuel
-an energy storage device
-super oxidizing materials
-high-temperature superconductors

The material was made of xenon difluoride and was sandwiched between two small diamond anvils. When put under high-pressure conditions, it became a 3-D metallic network structure. It basically squeezed the molecules into this new shape, so its mechanical energy could be stored as chemical energy in the newly formed bonds.

At normal atmospheric pressure, the material's molecules stay relatively far apart from each other. But as researchers increased the pressure inside the chamber, the material became a two-dimensional graphite-like semiconductor. The researchers eventually increased the pressure to more than a million atmospheres, comparable to what would be found halfway to the center of the earth. All this "squeezing," as Yoo calls it, forced the molecules to make tightly bound three-dimensional metallic "network structures." In the process, the huge amount of mechanical energy of compression was stored as chemical energy in the molecules' bonds.

Credit: Washington State University and Financial support for the research came from the U.S. Department of Defense's Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the National Science Foundation.