back to article Air-slurping solar battery will slice energy costs – boffins

Scientists have cooked up a patent-pending hybrid device that combines a solar cell with a rechargeable battery for the very first time. The solar battery was invented by boffins at the Ohio State University, who used a titanium gauze permeable mesh solar panel, which they say was key to the success of the entire US department …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "a patent-pending hybrid device ..."

    "... that combines a solar cell with a rechargeable battery for the first time"

    Wow, never seen one of those before.

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/05/17/review_freeloader_solar_charger/

    1. pierce
      Alien

      Re: "a patent-pending hybrid device ..."

      this isn't a solar cell attached to a battery, its a solar cell battery in one piece. very clever.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: "a patent-pending hybrid device ..."

        Not necessarily, it's like inventing a rubber magnet and saying this will allow tires and electric motors to be combined instead of separate so it will be more efficient.

        It doesn't say what the capacity is but it does so the life of the battery is comparable to other rechargeable, which is usually a lot less than the life of solar panels.

        So this breakthrough gives you no way to tune the storage capacity for the application and you get to throw away the whole system in a year when the battery capacity has dropped.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Wu hopes that the lifetime of the hybrid device will be comparable to rechargeable batteries."

    That lifetime seems uneconomical for large arrays?

  3. itzman
    FAIL

    Fantastic!

    Now instead of costing 10 x nuclear power, it will only cost 8.5 x!

    Shame about all the land area used though.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Fantastic!

      "Shame about all the land area used though."

      I wonder how much area there is just using roof spaces? Would that be as economical given that smaller arrays means many more inverters?

      On the other hand, is this actually useful in large(ish) scale if the life is only "hoped" to be as long as a current rechargable batteries? A couple thousand cycles doesn't sound very long.

      It's a clever idea and sounds very efficient but the life-span indicates it's use in niche applications such as remote sensing/monitoring.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Fantastic!

        "I wonder how much area there is just using roof spaces? "

        I wonder how many people will die falling off roofs, whilst installing the damned things?

        http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/whats-the-deadliest-power-source

    2. Diogenes

      Re: Fantastic!

      Now instead of costing 10 x nuclear power, it will only cost 8.5 x!

      Also I wonder how long it it takes for the co2 payback - ie co2 mitigated against co2 required in construction & installation

  4. the spectacularly refined chap Silver badge

    Where's the copy editor?

    ...due to light being converted to electrons inside the device...

    Come on... yes, I know what you mean but couldn't you have found a way of saying that which doesn't induce wincing?

  5. Chris G Silver badge

    Ignition

    How do they control the tendency of lithium to spontaneously ignite when exposed to the oxygen?

    I know it is combining with oxygen while recharging but normally the combining with oxygen bit is almost explosive.

    Exposing lithium to air can be quite interesting if you are a pyromaniac or a terrorist (or me) there must be a mechanism to regulate the rate of 'charge' and to stop the battery overheating during recharging.

    Anyone who has watched Bear Grylls will have seen him start a fire with his phone battery.

    Incidentally that is the main potential problem with the new bendyphone, if the battery is ruptured, a pocket is not a good place to keep it.

  6. David Lloyd

    probably too ambitious

    Air breathing, or metal air batteries based on lithium are still very much a work in progress. The problem with building the battery in to the solar cell is that the battery temperature will fluctuate widely due to being out in the sun and the cold nights. This makes engineering the battery more expensive. Plus as already pointed out batteries don't last anywhere near as long as a solid state PV. It would nice to hear what their panels efficiency with regards to photoconversion is.

    1. anono

      Re: probably too ambitious

      Too ambitious? All accomplishments start with a dream...

      1. fishman

        Re: probably too ambitious

        <<<Too ambitious? All accomplishments start with a dream... >>>

        "The fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown." --- Carl Sagan

      2. itzman

        Re: probably too ambitious

        All accomplishments start with a dream...

        ..and 99% end with a nightmare.

  7. cesium

    It's a battery dude. A battery that you recharge by leaving it out in the open during the day time. I dunno about you, but I keep my batteries in a little drawer. I guess I'd keep these solar powered batteries on my window sill. Doesn't seem like all that much land area to me.

    And you might want to actually do a bit of research before parading your ignorance. http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/er/electricity_generation.cfm lists PV as 40% more expensive than nuclear.

    I don't suppose you've ever wondered why nuclear only provides 20% of our electricity if its so cheap? Imagine a power plant that takes 10 years to build, and, buy the time you get it built, competing forms of electricity have dropped in price by a factor of 2. And you need to run that power plant for the next 40 years to recoup your costs, and during that 40 years, you're expecting competing forms of electricity to drop in price by a couple more factors of 2. That's the situation that nuclear is in compared to wind and solar.

  8. Get_off_the_grid_now
    Go

    Great idea, but it doesn't matter if it fails

    Conventional Solar cells will eventually replace roof tiles and shingles in all homes and businesses. The % loss from energy transport from solar cell to battery can be compensated by adding that % more cells (for now until efficiency improves.) The real game changer happens when Tesla's gigafactory is built in 2017 and it provides lower cost storage batteries to to homes through its subsidiary Solar City. A significant amount of the population will soon and finally be off the grid as it should be with huge reductions in carbon footprint.

    1. Lionel Baden

      Re: Great idea, but it doesn't matter if it fails

      you'd trust your average roofer to wire up the roof into your house supply :/

      While the sentiment is good and I agree with you, its not going to happen and probably never will.

      1. Get_off_the_grid_now

        Re: Great idea, but it doesn't matter if it fails

        It will happen first in areas where the sun shines regularly (such as the Southwest in the USA). There will be resistance by electric utilities that want to maintain their monopoly of power and would prefer to claim a power shortage and raise rates (because of the difficulties to build more fossil fuel and nuclear plants). Demand for power will continually increase and power distribution infrastructure will continue to get more inadequate. Individual off grid power where practical has a high likelihood to happen and it will be a growing and profitable (unstoppable) industry with a life of its own.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Illiterate idiots

    Is you can't read or don't understand basic science, PLEASE do not show your IGNORANCE here!

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      Re: Illiterate idiots

      Says the anon coward....

    2. AbelSoul

      Re: Illiterate idiots

      >> "Is you can't read ..."

      Bravo, AC, bravo.

    3. CCCP

      Re: Illiterate idiots

      If you can't write you don't belong here either. Move along.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Facepalm

        Re: Illiterate idiots

        You're advocating mass unemployment of journalists not just here, but world-wide? Harsh.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re. cells

    So there are two innovations here, 1) charging an electrochemical cell using solar energy, and 2) making the electrochemical cell breathe air.

    This also makes it that much more useful for vehicles as the weight of a charged cell is lower than for a discharged one so these could be charged at a base station and exchanged when flat.

    (imagines an entire roof covered in slowly charging D cells)

  11. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    a special process for transferring electrons between the solar panel and the battery

    Finally, that Maxwell's demon's been put to good work, the shirker!

  12. Miami Mike
    Boffin

    Positive negativity

    What a bunch of positive negativity! Here's something that appears to work, solves a number of problems, and most of the comments are why it is no good and we're all going to die anyway.

    This is a brand new device, it is fresh out of the laboratory, and of course it isn't going to work as well as established technology. Give it a couple of years, and the story may be entirely different. Recall the first semiconductors - anyone else here remember the 2N107 or the 1N34? Low power, low frequency, costly, electrically fragile, and look at semiconductors now. Our society would utterly collapse without them and even if we tried to go back to vacuum tubes, it wouldn't help.

    You guys are looking at a new-born baby and wondering if it is worthwhile because it hasn't already won the Nobel prize. Positively negative, we never should have come down from the trees.

    1. Vic

      Re: Positive negativity

      we never should have come down from the trees.

      The trees were a bad move. No-one should ever have left the oceans.

      Vic.

  13. Eddy Ito
    Childcatcher

    Gack!!!

    light hits the mesh solar panel and creates electrons.

    NO, no it doesn't! Converting a boson into a lepton indeed, get your Bose-Einstein Fermi-Dirac statistics right people! It can be dumbed down without making it factually wrong.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Breathing battery?

    So won't it work underwater? So locking someone in a car powered by this all night in a garage could prove fatal? Could you populate the top area of a car with it and power the A/C? (I loved that idea in the Leaf.)

    How many J/Kg or kWh/Kg are we looking at?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    not sure about the combination

    but with solar cell efficiencies improving and the tendency for batteries to fail before PV panels do, I'd prefer to keep the systems separate so I can replace components as needed.

    If a better battery comes along, or a cell dies, or a panel cracks, I'd rather just swap the part. As it is now, my camping array gets "more efficient" the longer I have it - I replace the lead acid with gel cells as budget allows, and add a few more panels to scale things up, swap in a new charge controller, and next year, a couple lightweight lithium-iron packs with the same capacity but a third the weight.

  16. Stevie

    Bah!

    So, "light creates electrons" eh?

    Any more insights from Dr Stephen Fry?

  17. psychonaut

    solar panels life is 30 or 40 years

    what about the battery? nowhere near is my guess.

    "watt" is the point?

    throw em away after how many cycles and get new ones. is Apple behind this?

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