An important issue for the energy industry is finding a way to store electricity to use when demand is at its highest or when none can be generated. For the past five years, the Carnegie Mellon professor and a team of engineers at his startup, Aquion Energy, have been developing a long-lived, eco-friendly and inexpensive battery out of nothing more than salt water and other simple components.
Jay Whitacre is the founder and CTO of Aquion Energy. Before his role at Aquion, Whitacre worked on energy storage for NASA’s Mars rover program. Aquion Energy manufactures clean and sustainable saltwater batteries that outlive and outperform traditional battery chemistries.
Aquion’s battery technology offers thousands of real-use application cycles for long duration (4 to 20 hour) applications. The batteries are extremely tolerant to abuse with the ability to stand at a partial state of charge with minimal degradation. The system requires no costly thermal management or regular maintenance and contains no hazardous materials, corrosive acids, or noxious fumes.
Aquion Manufacturing: How an AHI Battery is Made
Aqueous Hybrid Ion (AHI) chemistry is composed of a saltwater electrolyte, manganese oxide cathode, carbon composite anode, and synthetic cotton separator. The battery utilizes non-corrosive reactions at the anode and cathode to prevent deterioration of the materials. The water-based chemistry results in a nontoxic and noncombustible product that is safe to handle and environmentally friendly.
Tim Poor of Aquion Energy at Intersolar North America 2015 (Source: Youtube
“There was this big hole in the market for storage,” says Ray Lane, a partner with the venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, now Aquion’s lead investor. The saltwater battery not only fit the bill but also was cleaner than any other technology around. To prove the point, Whitacre has taken a piece of the battery’s electrode and, Lane says, “eaten it as a joke.”
Aquion energy is also a winner of ees AWARD for innovative products and solutions for electrical energy storage at the Intersolar Europe conference in Munich this year. Intersolar Europe is the biggest solar show in the world.