As the population and its demand for electricity increases, the call for renewable energy has been growing ever louder. Unfortunately, these energy sources (namely wind and solar power) can not always meet real-time needs. In order to gain the most from these energy sources while being able to cover their gaps in production, the need for storage of excess energy at the grid-level has become apparent. Current and planned bulk-energy storage projects largely focus on lithium-ion battery technology, though the finite supply, environmental toll of its mining, and geographically non-diverse dispersion of its deposits make lithium-based batteries a poor long-term solution.
One emerging candidate for future energy storage is the zinc-air battery. With a high theoretical energy density and construction materials that are plentiful and more environmentally sound, this battery draws oxygen from the air to its cathode as it discharges and releases it back when it is charging. The obstacles of making a rechargeable zinc-air battery are mainly sluggish kinetics of the reactions taking place at the air cathode, though significant progress has been made in overcoming these. This progress involves employing catalysts with specialized carbon frameworks and introducing atomic-scale iron and other individual or iron-alloyed elements into the framework to facilitate reactant absorption and provide active sites for the oxygen reactions.1-4
This seminar will discuss the development of three new and promising catalysts that aid in the charging and discharging performance of zinc-air batteries. The first is a catalyst with iron and cobalt atom integration on a graphitic carbon framework that can operate with acidic, basic, or neutral electrolytic solutions.1 The second is an iron and cobalt alloy doped onto a balsa-wood derived carbon aerogel.2 Finally, a catalyst with iron and cobalt sites entrapped in carbon nanospheres is considered.3
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