Currently electrochemical batteries is the front and center of energy storage, but their production often put a great strain on mineral resources. Not to mention that the mining process for metals used in them, such as nickel, lithium, and cobalt, have an overwhelming impact on the environment and our society.
As the renewable energy sector growing in an unprecedented pace, scientists are going back the drawing board to develop batteries that are equally environmentally cautious. And interestingly, many of the new designs borrow ideas from an older time.
Take compressed air for example, it is an often overlooked source of energy. Before being replaced by diesel or electricity-powered engines, the fireless locomotive is a type of machine that get their power from a reservoir of compressed air or steam, instead of a coal-burning boiler.
Using a similar principle, scientists are developing a type of mega energy-storing structure that can be charged by pumping the air into enclosed underground caves. These inexpensive, high capacity batteries release energy by letting out the stored air, which in turn drives a generator's turbines.
As proven in the early industrial era, gravitational force can also be used in energy storage. Imaginie an electricity-powered train goes up a long and gentle slope. The climb transforms electricity into potential energy, which can later be released as the train travels down the hill by gravity.
A Swiss startup developed a prototype battery that employs the gravity-potential energy principle. Using three commonly seen elements - heavy cement blocks, cranes, and motors, their system can charge or discharge simply by building or dissembling block towers.
Although many old-school methods need polishing and fine-tuning to make them apt for nowadays applications, it is still evident that our high-tech future could benefit from these low-tech, sustainable energy-storing solutions.
Source: SciShow via Youtube