Science Comms Done Right: Watch this Terrific Explainer on Earth Abundant Batteries

August 28, 2022

Freaking brilliant use of peanut butter and jelly to explain what a Flow Battery does.
This is science communication done right.

5 Responses to “Science Comms Done Right: Watch this Terrific Explainer on Earth Abundant Batteries”


  1. Batteries are a way of storing energy, but so are hydrocarbons (fossil fuels) and uranium. Batteries suffer from the intractable problem of low energy density. You might be able to make incremental improvements, maybe even increasing energy density by a factor of 2 or 3, but there are no prospects for a Moore’s Law type improvement. The only Moore’s Law scale improvement in energy density was the quantum leap from coal to uranium. This is why those slick computer generated images of electric airliners are likely to remain just that. This is why Tesla has not delivered on its electric semi (something that should be easy to build). The weight of the battery cuts into the cargo capacity.

    https://xkcd.com/1162/

      • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

        May the FSM smile upon Randall Munroe, but that observation about uranium ignores the most salient aspects of useful extraction of energy and the cost-effectiveness of it. Besides the obvious constraints of physics, energy extraction and storage entails engineering, social, political and economic issues.

        We certainly know how to reliably store and extract usable electricity from current battery technology (including those not yet scaled up to widespread deployment). With six months of training, we can certainly supply plenty of people to competently perform monitoring and maintenance on that technology. We can get financing to build those storage devices in a relatively short amount of time and have multiple suppliers vying to provide reliable components at competitive prices. We can have physical upgrades that don’t require weeks of offline testing every time.

        What can a physicist tell us about
        – the financing of capital-intensive, long-scale projects
        – the design of a waterless fusion reactor
        – the number of trained nuclear engineers to build and install them at scale
        – the number of available installation inspectors of appropriate expertise
        – what additional technical and personnel security is needed to secure the plant (over other generation/storage technologies)
        – the political issues associated with getting this tech to the high-carbon grids (e.g., India and Nigeria) that need them to displace GHG production,

        The casement of the Zaporizhzhia-like plants is designed to protect against airplanes crashing into them. Why? Should we add those expensive protections to all power generation and storage facilities? Why or why not?

  2. gmrmt Says:

    That first four hours where LI is cheaper than iron flow: does that take account of the recent massive increase in the cost of Lithium?
    The way demand is going for EV’s it’s going to make a lot of sense to reserve portable (high density) batteries for vehicles and use bulkier, cheaper options for stationary storage.

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      That first four hours where LI is cheaper than iron flow: does that take account of the recent massive increase in the cost of Lithium?

      Good question.

      I expect processed Li prices to go way up and down over the next decade. The higher the price goes, the more monetary incentive to mine more or to develop/produce more lower-lithium technology, which then of course would lower the price. In the coming decades, a greater proportion of the lithium in use will be from recycling, rather than directly from mines.

      The way demand is going for EV’s it’s going to make a lot of sense to reserve portable (high density) batteries for vehicles and use bulkier, cheaper options for stationary storage.

      I’m optimistic some combination of technology of LFP, iron air (“reversible rust”) and Na+ battery technology will displace lightweight Li+ technology from use in grid storage.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: