Cylinder containing nickel and hydrogen

A prototype Nickel-Hydrogen battery testing cell. (credit: Wei Chen, Yang Jin, Jie Zhao, Nian Liu, and Yi Cui )

Battery technology is extremely important for a world that uses more and more renewable energy. Renewable energy is variable—no electricity can be produced while the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing—so being able to store excess electricity that’s made when those renewable sources are producing is key to putting more of it on the grid.

The problem is that very large batteries can be expensive. A lot of research has been devoted to making batteries lighter and smaller, given how focused we’ve been over the last several decades on consumer technology. But now researchers are relaxing size and weight constraints and trying to find battery chemistries that are cheap and are extremely long-lasting instead.

Researchers from Stanford and the Georgia Institute of Technology (GT) are suggesting a new configuration of a nickel-hydrogen battery that could be cheap enough for mass-adoption on the grid. Traditional nickel-hydrogen batteries can last for up to 30,000 cycles and are extremely reliable and durable, which makes them great for grid use. But they often rely on a platinum catalyst that can make them prohibitively expensive for large installations.

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