Flower Power Takes On A New Meaning With Pollen Batteries
Energy storage is an extremely hot area of the energy and utility markets right now, with new innovations and investment opportunities appearing all the time. Add to that the breakneck growth of the energy storage market and you have a recipe for a burgeoning industry with massive potential. One of the most innovative technologies recently though is under development at Purdue University. Researchers in the Chemical Engineering Department there are working on a battery that uses plant pollen as a component.
The pollen would act as an anode in the Purdue battery in place of the current standard which uses tiny graphite particles. The innovation is using high temperature argon environments to char the pollen, leaving residual pure carbon in its place. The residual carbon components retain the same small geometric structure as pollen, which means that they are very complex surfaces covered with spikes, crevices, and pits. In nature, that surface allows pollen to effectively stick to bees and other insects helping plants to propagate effectively.
In batteries, the complex structure of the residual carbon particles creates a greater surface area, which in turn allows for better ion storage in the batteries. That makes the batteries more efficient and gives them a greater energy capacity. The technology has significant promise since energy storage capacity in batteries is one of the key issue that constrains the industry.
At this stage the Purdue research is still at the embryonic level. The technology has not even been tested on a full battery system yet, but rather only on isolated anodes. With that said, the concept looks very promising in general. The experimental pollen anode took 10 hours to reach a full charge, but only 1 hour to reach a half charge. That half charge speed is very important since it has significant potential in applications where charge rate is important such as electric vehicle battery recharging.
The broader point here for investors is two-fold. First, energy technology is advancing very rapidly and there is a good chance that the structure of the nation’s electrical grid will undergo more changes in the next 20 years than it has in the past 50.
Second, increasingly innovations are not being made by a lone inventor in a garage. Some innovations come from large companies pushing forward with technology improvements like Google’s work on self-driving cars. But in many cases, university and government research labs are the groups coming up with the really off the wall game-changing tech.
Those new technologies do not stay locked in a lab though. Instead universities and the federal government’s national labs license the tech out to companies which are interested in commercializing it….