Introducing the Gizmag Store

'Never-before-seen material' can store vast amounts of energy

By

July 4, 2010

WSU chemist Choong-Shik Yoo, seen here with students, has used super-high pressures to cre...

WSU chemist Choong-Shik Yoo, seen here with students, has used super-high pressures to create a compact, never-before-seen material capable of storing vast amounts of energy (Credit: WSU)

Using super-high pressures similar to those found deep in the Earth or on a giant planet, researchers from Washington State University (WSU) have created a compact, never-before-seen material capable of storing vast amounts of energy. Described by one of the researchers as “the most condensed form of energy storage outside of nuclear energy,” the material holds potential for creating a new class of energetic materials or fuels, an energy storage device, super-oxidizing materials for destroying chemical and biological agents, and high temperature superconductors.

The researchers created the material in a diamond anvil cell – a small, two-inch by three-inch-diameter device capable of producing extremely high pressures in a small space. The cell contained xenon difluoride (XeF2), a white crystal used to etch silicon conductors, squeezed between two small diamond anvils.

At normal atmospheric pressure, the material's molecules stay relatively far apart from each other. But as researchers increased the pressure inside the chamber, the material became a two-dimensional graphite-like semiconductor. At around 50 GPa, the XeF2 transforms into a reddish two-dimensional graphite-like hexagonal layered structure of semiconducting XeF4. Above 70 GPa, it further transforms into a black three-dimensional fluorite-like structure of the first observed metallic XeF8 polyhedron.

The researchers eventually increased the pressure to more than a million atmospheres, comparable to what would be found halfway to the center of the earth. WSU chemistry professor, Choong-Shik Yoo, says all this "squeezing" forced the molecules to make tightly bound three-dimensional metallic "network structures." In the process, the huge amount of mechanical energy of compression was stored as chemical energy in the molecules' bonds.

Yoo says the research is basic science, but that it shows it is possible to store mechanical energy into the chemical energy of a material with such strong chemical bonds.

The study detailing the WSU team’s research, “Two- and three-dimensional extended solids and metallization of compressed XeF2, appears in the journal Nature Chemistry.

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
20 Comments

Hitherto the main constraint for wider application of Renewable Energy has been storage of the energy generated. Nearly 30% of the cost of generation goes to storage. The new and Innovative method of "Using super-high pressures similar to those found deep in the Earth or on a giant planet, researchers from Washington State University (WSU) have created a compact, never-before-seen material capable of storing vast amounts of energy" is a major breakthrough in Energy Storage.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP), India.

Anumakonda Jagadeesh
4th July, 2010 @ 10:45 pm PDT

Now all we need is a proliferation of giant diamond anvil cells--oops!

TogetherinParis
4th July, 2010 @ 11:20 pm PDT

Congratulations, professor Choong-Shik Yoo, very important discovery.

How much energy we have to spend for and how much energy we can withdraw?

Sergius
5th July, 2010 @ 08:32 am PDT

Err, the article says that the material can store vast amounts of energy, but it doesn't actually say that there is a way of retrieving the energy. Can this energy actually be retrieved in a simple and controlled fashion?

Geoffrey Mantel
5th July, 2010 @ 12:26 pm PDT

So how much mechanical energy is required to infuse the structure with chemical energy? What's the conversion rate? Can the chemical energy be extracted? Is the process repeatable? How expensive are the materials involved? Does this have any chance to ever become commercialized?

I'm sure it's an interesting discovery, and congratulations to the researchers, but without these answers there's nothing to get excited about just yet.

kufu
5th July, 2010 @ 05:21 pm PDT

Depending on the speed of energy release, this could be a new form of explosive. Because of the special equipment involved it will never be useful (on a wide scale) as a form of energy storage.

Grunchy
5th July, 2010 @ 07:20 pm PDT

More than a million atmospheres......

Ummmmm bicycle pump? Noooooooo

Ummmmmmmmmmm?

Mr Stiffy
5th July, 2010 @ 10:42 pm PDT

If I put some it in my lap top will it the meet manufacturers claims on battery life.

Ronnie
5th July, 2010 @ 10:42 pm PDT

What is the cost involved in producing such super-high pressures in a compact form ? Can it be used to store solar energy in this mode and what is the capacity it can store? Before introducing it researchers should way pros and cons. The high compressed energy should not fall into terrorist activist.

dlbsree
5th July, 2010 @ 10:47 pm PDT

" the pressure to more than a million atmospheres, comparable to what would be found halfway to the center of the earth. WSU chemistry professor, Choong-Shik Yoo, says all this "squeezing" forced the molecules to make tightly bound three-dimensional metallic "network structures."

This is an impressive accomplishment, but I agree with Kufu: "So how much mechanical energy is required to infuse the structure with chemical energy?" Those percentages going in could potentially negate the value of what comes out except for some very specific applications where cost is a far lesser issue than the energy stored, i.e. military.

yrag
5th July, 2010 @ 10:59 pm PDT

Ye cynics, please note:

"Yoo says the research is basic science, but that it shows it is possible to store mechanical energy into the chemical energy of a material with such strong chemical bonds."

This article is about basic not applied science. The research merely demonstrates that a mechanical to chemical conversion is possible--with interesting implications.

Technology is built on basic science. The value of research is not reduced simply because one does not see an immediate technological benefit.

The headline of the story was an unfortunate choice.

PBFleetwood
6th July, 2010 @ 11:05 am PDT

This is a more than a great news however only a beginning.

If works, we may have thing only appear possible in science fictions come true.

Thing such as space ships, life sustainable space stations, flying cars, and any sort of high energy required devices. However, we may spell the end of humanity if goes the wrong way such as apply it to a droid robot with malfunction programs etc.

wow2010
6th July, 2010 @ 03:48 pm PDT

Gasoline was once a "never-before-seen material" which stored vast amounts of energy, and I bet basic science was all that was needed to refine gasoline from oil, not quantum mechanics making warp drives.

I am an optimist, and I am quite sure that eventually we will wind up using a mixture of all these new technologies to generate and store energy, depending on the application's need. Perhaps a Li-On powered car will stop at a service station for a quick recharge from one of these crystals.

Perhaps also, once the crystal structure is generated the first time, is it easier to recharge?

David Storfer
6th July, 2010 @ 08:13 pm PDT

It seems to me that the article is saying that it's capacity versus size factor is favorable for storing energy, more so than capacitors or batteries. That being said, it would be an excellent option for storing unused renewable resources, to be released into the grid when required in peak times.

However, Geoffrey Mantel has a valid point: what is the process required to extract the energy, and can the release be predictably controlled?

Ideally, energy to be stored which is derived from a mechanical source (i.e. wind farms or hydroelectric generators) would be a good match.

Ike Rai
7th July, 2010 @ 09:04 am PDT

Scratching a brain cell here.

It's not much different to making metallic hydrogen.

If you get hydrogen (probably a liquid) and squeeze it like absolutely mental - you get hydrogen - the metal.

I essence what this guy is doing is not new, but the energy storage with this compound seems to be a new thing.

A short extract:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metallic_hydrogen

In 1935 however, physicists Eugene Wigner and Hillard Bell Huntington predicted that under an immense pressure of ~25 GPa (250,000 atm or 3,500,000 psi), hydrogen atoms would display metallic properties, losing hold over their electrons.[1] Since then, metallic hydrogen has been described as "the holy grail of high-pressure physics".[2]

The initial prediction about the amount of pressure needed was eventually proven to be too low.[3] Since the first work by Wigner and Huntington the more modern theoretical calculations were pointing toward higher but nonetheless potentially accessible metallization pressures. Techniques are being developed for creating pressures of up to 500 GPa, higher than the pressure at the center of the Earth, in hopes of creating metallic hydrogen.[4]

In March 1996, a group of scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory reported that they had serendipitously produced, for about a microsecond and at temperatures of thousands of kelvins and pressures of over a million atmospheres (>100 GPa), the first identifiably metallic hydrogen.[12] The team did not expect to produce metallic hydrogen, as it was not using solid hydrogen, thought to be necessary, and was working at temperatures above those specified by metallization theory. Previous studies in which solid hydrogen was compressed inside diamond anvils to pressures of up to 2,500,000 atm (253 GPa), did not confirm detectable metallization. The team had sought simply to measure the less extreme electrical conductivity changes which were expected to occur. The researchers used a 1960s-era light gas gun, originally employed in guided missile studies, to shoot an impactor plate into a sealed container containing a half-millimeter thick sample of liquid hydrogen. The liquid hydrogen was in contact with wires leading to a device measuring electrical resistance. The scientists found that, as pressure rose to 1,400,000 atm (142 GPa), the electronic energy band gap, a measure of electrical resistance, fell to almost zero. The band-gap of hydrogen in its uncompressed state is about 15 eV, making it an insulator but, as the pressure increases significantly, the band-gap gradually fell to 0.3 eV. Because the thermal energy of the fluid (the temperature became about 3,000 K due to compression of the sample) was above 0.3 eV, the hydrogen might be considered metallic.

Mr Stiffy
11th July, 2010 @ 07:02 pm PDT

I thought you were going somewhere with that extract... fool me once.

Fleetwood, you've got it mate.

Those fellows in the photograph are mad! No pocket protectors? And they have pens in their pockets! Madness!

Craig Jennings
24th July, 2010 @ 04:35 am PDT

My God, Jennings! You're right! No pocket protectors...unsafe science. I wonder if they even back up their files on flash drive. Okay, I am interested in super science like this, but there may be no practicle way to make this into a battery. A small amount of this might produce an explosion like an atom bomb, releasing all that energy in a very sharp pressure wave could have special application in the military. I think Obi wan had to deal with such sonic charges in that asteroid field...

. But why did they choose a gass? Why not supercompress aluminium or lithium? There are tens of thousands of compounds and alloys to try...get busy people.

Ronald Wade Cooper
2nd August, 2010 @ 10:45 pm PDT

Yes, how do we get energy back? Is it economically feasible? All very interesting, but all very obvious as well.

*** As a "potentially" viable very-large-scale power battery, could we not:

1) dig very large holes

2) put in metal plate on piston

3) fill plate with weight--lots of weight (gravel?)

4) when storing power, lift weight

5) when using power, lower weight: that turns turbines that generates electricity

Either way, battery in motion (storing or powering), so less stress build-up; except if we ever did this on "super-huge" scale then "massive" amounts of weight (pressure on the mantle) in small areas could lead to seismic activity or other instability.

Fred Meyers
25th January, 2011 @ 08:10 pm PST

Where's togetherinparis? I think he already invented this. :) Sorry, I couldn't resist...

epochdesign
3rd August, 2011 @ 06:01 pm PDT

The problem is producing enough of the substance to create a usable storage device. The amount of material used in these experiments were in the miligrams of material. They are still a long way from a commercially viable solution. But it's a great discovery. Great job!!!

davemcp
23rd May, 2012 @ 10:11 am PDT
Post a Comment

Login with your gizmag account:

Or Login with Facebook:


Related Articles

Just enter your friends and your email address into the form below

For multiple addresses, separate each with a comma




Privacy is safe with us because we have a strict privacy policy.

Looking for something? Search our 26,501 articles