University of St Andrews researchers led by Professor John Irvine have put forward an important step in electricity storage which is generated by intermittent energy sources. In the energy conservation field, there is a continuous quest for scientists and researchers worldwide. And the development by the St Andrews researchers is considered a great success.
This invention will make the storage of power very reliable and economical, generated from intermittent energy power generation sources like wind, solar, and other similar sources. Professor John Irvine and his team used solid oxide cells (SOCs) in this process. SOCs perform at very high efficiency over a wide range of scales and thus offer the best prospects. Solid oxide cells (SOCs) can operate as fuel cells by oxidizing to produce electricity and electrolysis cells in electrolyzing water to produce hydrogen and oxygen gases. Though this electrochemical method was known earlier, the scientists so far were struggling with the development of the electrodes required in this process to deliver high, long-lasting electrocatalytic activity while ensuring cost and time-efficient manufacturing of them.
This used to be done earlier through a very lengthy and intricate “ex-situ” procedure, and the electrodes manufactured were susceptible to many other forms of degradation. These methods required dedicated precursors and equipment. St Andrews researchers developed a new electrochemical switching method, which simplified the manufacturing of the electrodes required to deliver high, long-lasting energy activity.
These results were published in Nature magazine recently. It demonstrates a new way to produce highly active and stable nanostructures – by growing electrode nano-architectures under operational conditions. This has opened fascinating possibilities of reinvigorating fuel cells during operation. While explaining the method, Professor Irvine says, “Fuel cell and electrolysis technologies offer great opportunities to deliver clean energy and impact on global warming in the immediate future. The technologies are already available; however, advances in performance and durability are needed to allow rapid implementation. This study affords great enhancements in performance and provides means to reinvigorate during operation, greatly extending useful lifetime through intricate manipulation of nanostructural features.”
These newly developed electrode structures deliver very high performances in both fuel cell and electrolysis mode and both the nanostructures and corresponding electrochemical activity. The electrodes showed no degradation during 150 hours of rigorous testing. It’s expected this breakthrough will have vast applications that even might support handheld electronic devices, cars, and even buildings.