To move the world toward sustainability, scientists are continuing to explore and improve ways to tap the vast power of sunlight to make fuels and generate electricity. Now they have come up with a brand-new way to use light — solar or artificial — to drive battery power safely. Their “photo battery,” reported in ACS’ The Journal of Physical Chemistry C, uses light and titanium nitride for the anode.
Metal-ion batteries such as those based on lithium ions run most of our gadgets. But they take a long time to charge. They can also overheat and catch fire if they’re defective or damaged. These problems are often related to the unstable material used for the anode, the negative side of the battery. Musthafa Ottakam Thotiyl and colleagues wanted to address these flaws in a unique way.
The researchers developed a battery with a titanium nitride photoanode that is highly stable and thus far safer than conventional options. Under normal indoor lighting, it discharged electric current and recharged within 30 seconds without an external power source. The photo battery worked for more than 100 cycles and could power a light-emitting diode (known as an LED). Although not yet strong enough to run commercially available devices, the researchers say their design is a promising first step toward a more sustainable and safer battery technology.