Las baterías de zinc-aire son una clara alternativa a las de iones de litio. Tienen una densidad energética de 370 Wh/kilogramo. Algunos expertos califican al zinc como el combustible eléctrico del futuro. Entre sus principales ventajas destaca su facilidad de carga y su alto potencial energético. A diferencia de otros tipo de baterías estas necesitan que el vehículo vaya equipado con un sistema de filtrado e inyección de aire y de un sistema de monitoreo a bordo.
La tecnología zinc-aire respetuosa con el medio ambiente encuentra su mejor aplicación en prótesis de oído, aparatos electrónicos portátiles y en el sector automotriz. Las baterías de zinc-aire han reemplaza por completo las baterías de mercurio en las prótesis de oído.
La tecnología zinc-aire, una tecnología simple, efectiva y de bajo coste, puede ser utilizada como una solución alternativa en el sector automotriz y en los aparatos electronicos portátiles.
Según la consultora Frost & Sullivan, el mercado mundial de baterías de zinc-aire generó unos ingresos de 251 millones de dólares en 2005, que aumentará rápidamente debido a la mayor utilización de las baterías zinc-aire en aplicaciones emergentes, como los vehículos eléctricos.
Las baterías zinc-aire son del tipo primarias, por lo que una vez agotada la carga no pueden recargarse sino que hay que extraer el zinc y cargarlo fuera de la batería. Sin embargo, la carga del zinc es fácil y rápida.
Uno de los grandes inconvenientes de la tecnología metal-aire es el hecho de que se trata de baterías primarias no recargables. Ello hace que sea necesario comprar pilas nuevas o tratar de sacar el electrolíto y el hidróxido e introducir nuevo metal dentro.
Por esta razón la investigación va encaminada a conseguir una batería recargable basado en los sistemas metal-aire. La empresa ReVolt ya ha desarrollado la primera batería de Zinc-aire recargable.
Este tipo de batería puede proporcionar 3 veces más duración que las de plomo-ácido. Las pilas a base de zinc tienen como principal ventaja la posibilidad de ser recicladas sin límite, sin perder ni sus cualidades químicas, ni sus cualidades físicas.
A pesar de que el zinc representa una fuente de energía limpia y duradera para el futuro, sin embargo, se desconoce el impacto que podría tener su uso masivo sobre el medio ambiente. El zinc se usa en la producción de acero galvanizado, que representa la mitad de su mercado. Un tercio del zinc consumido, se produce a partir del reciclado del zinc usado.
Las baterías Zinc Air Prismatic de Energizer concentran mayor cantidad de energía en un tamaño más reducido, y prometen ser una revolución. Energizer afirma que en el mismo tamaño, su tecnología proporciona el triple de autonomía que una pila de iones de litio actuales. Duracell, una de sus marcas rivales, también está desarrollando pilas Zinc Air.
Este avance ha sido el fruto de varios años de trabajo conjunto de la marca de pilas y baterías con los fabricantes de electrónica de consumo, enfocando el desarrollo hacia equipos más pequeños pero con buena autonomía.
El diseño y principio de las baterías zinc-aire es relativamente simple, pero su construcción no lo es, ya que el electrodo de aire debe ser extremadamente delgado. Se han hecho muchos estudios y grandes avances en el sellado del aire, pero aún queda mucho camino por recorrer.
ReVolt Technology, Ltd & BASF Announce Joint Development Agreement for Rechargeable Zinc-Air Battery
ReVolt Technology Ltd, a technology company, which has developed a rechargeable zinc-air battery, announced a joint-development agreement with BASF to speed the development and commercialization of ReVolt’s rechargeable zinc-air battery system. Under the agreement, BASF will use its world-class material scientists as well as its know-how in the area of electrochemistry to further advance the technology. BASF will supply key component materials and jointly developed subsystem elements necessary for the continued development and commercialization of ReVolt’s rechargeable zinc-air batteries.
There is a strong need for safe, environmentally friendly and cheap energy storage solutions. Zinc-air batteries can be a solution to some of the challenges ahead. ReVolt, using its established technology base and know-how, will help BASF to assess today’s and future potential of this technology.
ReVolt’s zinc-air, rechargeable battery technology provides a high energy solution for consumer and industrial market applications that is environmentally safe, reusable and recyclable. Revolt’s zinc-air technology offers up to three times the energy density of lithium-ion in an inherently safe and cost-effective package representing a major leap forward and compelling value proposition for energy storage applications.
“The ReVolt Technology team is very excited and honored to have BASF as a development partner to transform energy storage for consumer and industrial applications,” stated James P. McDougall, CEO of ReVolt Technology, Ltd. “The partnership with BASF will provide vast know-how and resources to our development efforts and assist greatly in our efforts to commercialize ReVolt’s rechargeable zinc-air battery technology.”
About ReVolt Technology
ReVolt Technology Ltd. is a technology company, which has developed a rechargeable zinc-air battery. ReVolt’s batteries may enable more high-power consumer devices and increase the lifetime of existing consumer devices significantly. The technology is a result of six years of intense research and development at SINTEF (the largest independent research institute in Scandinavia). Research on material combinations has solved issues historically related to the metal-air technology; power, lifetime and rechargeability. Further information on ReVolt Technology is available on the Internet at www.revolttechnology.com
About BASF Future Business GmbH
A 100 percent-owned subsidiary of BASF SE, BASF Future Business was founded in April 2001. It aims to open up business areas with above-average growth rates that lie outside BASF’s current activities.
The company focuses on chemistry-based new materials, technologies and system solutions. BASF Future Business GmbH commissions research from BASF’s R&D units and cooperates with startup companies, industrial partners, universities and potential customers. Further activities include acquisition of direct stakes, initiation of joint ventures and provision of venture capital via the subsidiary BASF Venture Capital GmbH.
BASF SE is the world’s leading chemical company. Its portfolio ranges from chemicals, plastics, performance products, agricultural products and fine chemicals to crude oil and natural gas. As a reliable partner to virtually all industries, BASF’s high-value products and intelligent system solutions help its customers to be more successful. BASF develops new technologies and uses them to meet the challenges of the future and open up additional market opportunities. It combines economic success with environmental protection and social responsibility, thus contributing to a better future. BASF has over 96,000 employees and posted sales of €62.3 billion in 2008. BASF shares are traded on the stock exchanges in Frankfurt (BAS), London (BFA), New York (BF) and Zurich (AN). Further information on BASF is available on the Internet at www.basf.com
ReVolt, BASF Sign Zinc-Air Battery Development Deal
Swiss startup ReVolt Technology will have chemical giant BASF’s (BASFY.PK) help in commercializing its rechargeable zinc-air batteries, the companies announced Thursday.
Financial terms of the deal weren’t announced, but BASF said it would put its engineers on the task, as well as provide materials and subsystems to "help BASF to assess today’s and future potential of this technology."
Metal-air batteries generate power by exposing metal and an electrolyte to oxygen, oxidizing the metal and releasing energ. They can offer many multiples the energy density of lithium-ion batteries, but recharging them is a challenge, as the chemical process they use to generate power is hard to reverse. That’s limited their commercial appeal to single-use purposes such as hearing aid batteries.
ReVolt says it solves the recharging problem with a bi-functional air electrode that can reform the oxygen and metal used to power the first reaction in a more energy-efficient way. It also doesn’t degrade the materials involved, it says, resulting in a rechargeable battery with about three times the energy storage of its lithium-ion contenders.
ReVolt raised €10 million ($14 million) in a January second round of funding, adding to a 2005 €7 million round and a €1.5 million seed round of funding.
It isn’t alone in the quest for the rechargeable metal-air battery. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory spinout PowerAir has what it calls zinc-air fuel cells, given that they are "recharged" by removing spent materials and adding fresh ones, as a fuel cell does. It’s looking at ways to use the leftover zinc oxide as well.
Lithium-air batteries could offer even greater energy densities, researchers say. Berkeley-based startup PolyPlus is working on lithium air batteries, along with ones using seawater or sulfur as electrolytes, something it says is made possible by its "protected" lithium electrodes that don’t chemically mix with the electrolyte. According to CNET, it is developing lithium-air batteries with Quallion, a lithium-ion battery manufacturer with medical device and military customers now seeking to expand into powering idling trucks.
IBM also is researching lithium-air batteries, looking at ways filters it has developed for water purification at its Almaden Research Center in San Jose, Calif.,could be applied to the recharging challenge. ReVolt will be one of 25 European and Israeli green technology startups presenting at the European Tech Tour Cleantech Summit next week. Perhaps more details on its commercialization plans will emerge then.
Electricity From Air and Zinc? A Growing Chorus Says Yes
Zinc. Laugh if you want, but a few startups and some researchers say it could replace lithium-ion batteries and allow solar farms to store energy.
Is zinc the answer to all our problems?
A small, but growing number of companies say that the 30th element on the Periodic Table could go a long way toward solving one of the most vexing problems in the renewable world: energy storage.
Switzerland’s ReVolt Technology, which received 10 million Euros ($14 million) in a second round of funding today, is the latest to promote zinc as a storage medium. The company makes zinc air batteries. In these devices, zinc powder or pellets are placed in an electrolyte solution. When the solution is exposed to air, chemical reactions take place that cause electrons to be released. In all, ReVolt has raised 24 million Euros.
Zinc air batteries could store four times the amount of power that lithium-ion batteries, claims the company, but would be far more stable, resistant to short circuits, and wouldn’t lose much of their charge over time. In some ways, the batteries function more like fuel cells than classic batteries because they get "recharged" by the addition of chemicals rather than getting plugged into a wall.
Another big benefit: Zinc oxide, the stuff found in sunscreen, is one of the byproducts of the zinc air battery reaction. It can then be reformed into zinc for fuel, according to PowerAir, a U.S. company that spun out of Lawrence Berkeley National Labs and is trying to do the same thing.
"Imagine a fuel that, rather than burning up and polluting the atmosphere, can be recycled to use over and over again. Zinc is that fuel and has the potential to replace traditional fuels to power the world," says PowerAir’s Website.
Zinc is also abundant and cheap. Pennies are 97.5 percent zinc.
Both Revolt and PowerAir will first try to gain traction into consumer markets and later tackle industrial ones. Zinc batteries, for instance, could replace diesel generators as a backup power source for cell towers.
Others are thinking of bigger applications. Researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institut are looked at ways to use zinc as a way to store heat at solar thermal power plants. In the proposed SolZinc process, heat from the sun (along with a dash of carbon) would create zinc oxide and carbon monoxide. Zinc could then be used in air batteries or to make hydrogen.
Energy storage, along with clean coal, is often referred to as the "Google" of greentech. That is, an opportunity so huge that the company that cracks the formula will reap billions. Solar and wind farms need local storage so that they can provide power on a more consistent basis to the grid. Much of the wind power produced at night could be more effectively and economically consumed if it could be stored until daytime.
Other solutions for megawatt scale being discussed include sodium sulfur batteries, "flow batteries" from companies such as Deeya Energy, methanol fuel cells various lithium batteries, and caves filled with compressed air. In the consumer world, a whole host of companies like Boston-Power and A123 Systems are tinkering with new types of lithium batteries
Going mainstream with zinc, however, will take time. PowerAir only began to sell its first devices at the end of last year with fairly limited distribution in the consumer market.
Meanwhile, two U.S. companies concocted zinc rechargeable batteries. These devices function more like standard batteries. PowerGenix makes a nickel-zinc battery. (You’ve read the story-Now see the film.) Ritz Camera began marketing these batteries under its own brand (Quantaray Super Z) at the end of last year.
Soon, a major notebook vendor is expected to announce it will adopt ZPower’s zinc silver rechargeable batteries for a laptop.