Scientists Create an Organic Battery


Scientists at USC have developed a water-based organic battery that is long lasting, and composed of inexpensive, eco-friendly material. The new, non-metal and non-toxic, battery is intended for use in power plants, where it can make the energy grid more resilient and efficient by creating a large-scale way to store energy for use as needed.


“The batteries last for about 5,000 recharge cycles, giving them an estimated 15-year lifespan,” said Sri Narayan, professor of chemistry at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and corresponding author of a paper describing the new batteries that was published online by the Journal of the Electrochemical Society on June 20. “Lithium ion batteries degrade after around 1,000 cycles, and cost 10 times more to manufacture.”


Narayan collaborated with Surya Prakash, professor of chemistry and director of the USC Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute, as well as USC’s Bo Yang, Lena Hoober-Burkhardt, and Fang Wang.


“Such organic flow batteries will be game-changers for grid electrical energy storage in terms of simplicity, cost, reliability and sustainability,” said Prakash.


The battery technology could pave the way for renewable energy sources to make up a greater share of the nation’s energy generation. Solar panels can only generate power when the sun’s shining, and wind turbines can only generate power when the wind blows. That inherent unreliability makes it difficult for power companies to rely on them to meet customer demand.


With batteries to store surplus energy and then dole it out as needed, that sporadic unreliability could cease to be such an issue.


“Mega-scale energy storage is a critical problem in the future of the renewable energy, requiring inexpensive and eco-friendly solutions,” Narayan said.


The new battery is based on a redox flow design, similar in design to a fuel cell, with two tanks of electroactive materials dissolved in water. The solutions are pumped into a cell containing a membrane between the two fluids with electrodes on either side, releasing energy.


The design has the advantage of decoupling power from energy. The tanks of electroactive materials can be made as large as needed, increasing the total amount of energy the system can store, or the central cell can be tweaked to release that energy faster or slower, altering the amount of power (energy released over time) that the system can generate.


The team’s breakthrough centered around the electroactive materials. While previous battery designs have used metals or toxic chemicals, Narayan and Prakash wanted to find an organic compound that could be dissolved in water. Such a system would create a minimal impact on the environment, and would likely be cheaper, they figured.


Through a combination of molecular design, along with trial and error, they found that certain naturally occurring Quinones (oxidized organic compounds) worked well. Quinones are found in plants, fungi, bacteria and some animals, and are involved in photosynthesis and cellular respiration.


“These are the types of molecules that nature uses for energy transfer,” Narayan said.

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8 thoughts on “Scientists Create an Organic Battery

  1. I find this SO FASCINATING! Just a few weeks ago, I was wanted to put a few magnets on opposite ends of a potato and put in a lightbulb. I love this and so glad people have taken the idea seriously and done something with this!!!! Thank you so much for sharing this information with us!


    1. Valerie, thank you so much for your kind words and as always taking the time to read my article I’m glad you found value in it. I’ve heard of the potato project but never tried it.I do think it’s amazing all the new discoveries scientists are making a reality. I would’ve never believed that corn would fuel vehicles let along semi trucks. But, when I was a truck driver the bio-fuel was just being introduced and all of the new trucks were running on corn. Can you dig that? LOL, what an amazing time we live in. Very interesting times.

      This article was originally written for a battery supplier who gave me a lot of creative leeway on the articles I could write for their blog and it was a fun experience. So, being a lady of science what other ideas and thoughts do you have on this subject or natural energy and fuel?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. All I know is that there are lots of ways to make energy and clean water that we are not taking advantage of. What concerns me most is water. When I hear that South Africa is in a drought and the Middle East needs water, I wonder why the scientists have not come up with a cheaper way to desalinate water. There is so much more we could do to alleviate suffering if we would only do it!


      2. Excellent point! I’ve thought the same for a while. I see no need for people to go without water or, equally as bad, food. Like I always say we can put a man on the Moon but we seem to not be able to solve such important issues here on our own planet. Thank you, for your input I really appreciate it. The communication my blog encourages is my favorite part of having a blog in the first place.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. YES MAM! You hit the nail on the head with that one. And also if some weren’t so focused on gaining wealth that they could never, ever hope to spend in one lifetime we would be able to feed our fellow man. If only we were in charge aye?

        Liked by 1 person

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