The key to the battery-powered house

When scaled up in size, this prototype battery could store enough energy to power a house for most of a day.
Date:31 August 2009 Tags:,

Ceramatec’s new battery

Without a way to store their power, no number of solar panels will free a home from the electrical grid.

Researchers at Utah-based Ceramatec have developed a new battery that can be scaled up to store 20 kilowatt-hours – enough to power an average home for most of a day. An easy sell for solar users, but it could also allow the gridbound to stockpile energy during less expensive off-peak hours.

The new battery runs on sodium-sulphur, a composition that typically operates at greater than 600 degrees. “Sodium-sulphur is more energetic than lead-acid, so if you can somehow get it to a lower temperature, it would be valuable for residential use,” says Ralph Brodd, an independent energy conversion consultant.

Ceramatec’s new battery runs at less than 93 degrees. The secret is a thin ceramic membrane that is sandwiched between the sodium and sulphur. Only positive sodium ions can pass through, leaving electrons to create a useful electrical current. Ceramatec says that batteries will be ready for market testing in 2011, and will sell for about R16 000.

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