Panasonic begins developing zinc-air flow batteries for renewables storage

Panasonic is expanding the development of a zinc-air battery tech it currently uses for hearing enhancement equipment. It said the new devices, which will be designed for renewables storage, will be safer than their lithium-ion counterparts, with high energy densities.

Japanese electronics manufacturer Panasonic said this week it has started developing zinc-air flow battery (ZAFB) for the storage of large-scale renewable energy projects.

Based on the zinc-air secondary battery technology that we have developed over many years, we aim to establish a low-cost, high-capacity energy storage technology with a new ‘flow’ design,” the company said in a statement.

Panasonic’s zinc-air batteries are currently being used in hearing enhancement equipment.

“They provide a steady level of power, ensuring proper functioning of your hearing aid at all times,” the company said. “Zinc Air batteries are especially suitable for hearing aids. They have a high energy density. Equal size batteries can contain twice as much energy as a lithium-ion battery.”

Panasonic said the new devices will be safer than lithium-ion batteries, as the electrolyte in which the zinc is soaked is a water-based liquid, and the possibility of ignition is extremely low.

A ZAFB consists of two electrodes – a Zn anode and an air cathode. The anode and cathode are separated by a separator allowing ions to transfer across the cell. Potassium hydroxide (KOH) aqueous solution is commonly used as an electrolyte.

In batteries with a ‘flow’ design, the cell and the tank are independent of each other, so it is possible to easily increase the capacity by increasing the size of the tank,” Panasonic said. “During charging, zinc oxide (ZnO) chemically changes to zinc to store electricity and, in the discharging phase, when zinc returns to zinc oxide by the action of oxygen contained in the air, the stored electrons are released, so electricity can be extracted.”

The company said the research project has the support of Japan’s Ministry of Environment. It did not provide any additional technical details.

This post appeared first on PV Magazine.

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