Chemists are turning their hand to solving the world's electrical energy crisis.

Chemists are turning their hand to solving the world’s electrical energy crisis. Demand for electricity at peak times means that back-up power stations are needed, just in case, but are not used consistently. This is expensive and inefficient. An alternative is to have a bank of batteries that can store surplus electricity until required and Derek Pletcher and colleagues at the University of Southampton, UK, might have found a system that can do just that.

The new system that is being pioneered is a flow battery consisting of a single electrolyte and as such it doesn’t need a separator, making the batteries much cheaper. The system is based on the reactions of lead(ii) in methanesulfonic acid. Preliminary tests have been on a small scale but show great promise and Pletcher is hopeful that the system can be scaled up. ’An essential further stage is to test the chemistry and battery performance on a much increased size of battery system’ he says.

Katherine Sanderson