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back to article Boffins claim battery BREAKTHROUGH – with rhubarb-like molecule

The humble rhubarb has joined the growing hype-list of possible sources for super-battery materials, to help make renewables like solar and wind more able to cope with baseload requirements. There's good reason to look for non-metallic electrodes in batteries – the most popular photo-voltaic backup is still the lead-acid battery …

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Optimistic

I know there are many battery story haters here, all upset that each lead has only 1% extra edge here or there, but I look on the bright side. Those small percentages can compound and early lab results suggest fronts which can be developed.

And I am not fond of rhubarb.

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Joke

Re: Optimistic - Given the right components

Which will need to include sugar, custard and (and this might be controversial) a little strawberry jam then I agree they may be on to something here. We would be both more environmentally friendly and yummy...

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Re: Optimistic - Given the right components

>> sugar, custard and ... a little strawberry jam

Agreed - anything to take away the taste of the rhubarb.

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Happy

Re: Optimistic +1

@Cliff - my first thoughts exactly. Now we have something useful to do with Rhubarb rather than try and put it in food. It tastes horrible and I'm naturally intolerant to anything that Geoffrey Boycott goes on about. Why people try and ruin a good dessert with something like Rhubarb is beyond me.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Optimistic

> Those small percentages can compound and early lab results suggest fronts which can be developed.

Those small percentages are not compoundable and are often mutually exclusive or for completely different battery technologies.

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Happy

Re: Optimistic +1

So who's the serial downvoting, obvious rhubarb fanboi on this thread then?

Like with the iPhone/Android thing, I'm ambivalent. I've had nice rhubarb desserts, mostly when smothered in sugar and custard, but mostly it's been stringiness, slimeyness and bitterness covered in yummy custard...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Optimistic +1

> but mostly it's been stringiness, slimeyness and bitterness covered in yummy yucky custard...

Fixed it for you

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JDX
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Re: Optimistic +1

Rhubarb wine is supposed to be nice,

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Re: Optimistic - Given the right components

Poach it gently in red wine. Add Muscovado sugar to suit your taste buds. When the rhubarb is just softening take it out of the wine and then reduce the wine to thicken it a little bit so you can use it as a sauce. You can use a little powdered Arrowroot to help the thickening if you like.

The trick is to use the younger Rhubarb stalks before they develop that really acid taste.

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Re: Optimistic +1

Rhubarb wine IS nice....not supposed to be.

Just takes about 5 years to ferment/mature.

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Re: Optimistic

> I know there are many battery story haters here, all upset that each lead has only 1% extra edge here or there, but I look on the bright side ...

.... at least Gordon Ramsey isn't the Research Manager : "Only one f**kin' percent? Have you never f**kin' cooked rhubarb before, you f**ckin' twat." -

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Trollface

Re: Optimistic +1

Rhubarb wine is supposed to be nice,

Then why isn't it?

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Re: Optimistic +1

"Why people try and ruin a good dessert with something like Rhubarb is beyond me."

Because we like it.

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Re: Optimistic +1

"but mostly it's been stringiness, slimeyness and bitterness covered in yummy custard..."

Yes, that's what you tend to get in frozen pies/crumbles or in pub chains/restaurants aimed at softy southerners.

Proper rhubarb is not bitter, at least not as bitter a lemon anyway, and is lovely eaten raw and crunchy as well as cooked in pies and crumbles when done properly, ie NOT a mushy mess.

It probably helps if you grow your own so you know it's fresh :-)

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Re: Optimistic +1

When my brother and I steadfastly refused to eat any of the yummy rhubarb he'd been growing, my dad turned to rhubarb wine as a way to get rid of the stuff.

Some time later, he proudly brought his Chateau Shed to the table and set it down.

doG knows what he'd done, but the act of setting it upright on the table sent the cork flying into the ceiling, where it stayed, and we were treated to a violet-red Vesuvius which was WAAAY better than the indoor fireworks we'd had at Christmas.

The next year he planted lettuces. About a hundred of them. Which all ripened (does a lettuce ripen?) within hours of each other, leading to the Great Goodwick Lettuce Giveaway of Desperation which still causes old men to shudder when mentioned in the Royal Oak (he took to accosting random strangers and offering them half a dozen lettuces).

After that he let my brother and I use that patch of garden to build pretend motorways and quarries. A much wiser decision.

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Re: Optimistic

Truth be told, I'm a battery hater, a fuel cell lover, etc.

That said, I do love rhubarb and sugar.

A strange thing from a Yank that was born and bred of non-UK linage.

Strawberry-rhubarb pie is exceptional!

Now, turn a nice treat into fuel, *beyond cool!*, if it actually works in a real world environmental condition.

Or can add to such a condition.

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Re: Optimistic

Many of little is much.

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Happy

Re: Optimistic +1

Some of us like it. The rhubarb in our 1950's garden in Wiltshire grew four feet tall, and being American servicemen, our family had unrationed USA ingredients to make pudding with. Yum!

However... there's no reason to waste the stalks on batteries. (Is that "a stalk and battery"?) The leaves are toxic, but should have enough quinone in them to be harvestable for the purpose, if we can short the compost heaps.

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Anonymous Coward

Rhubard and

"In flow batteries, such as the researchers are working on, energy storage happens in external tanks, and recovered by flowing the fluid across the electrodes when needed."

The custard helps the flow

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Thermal stores would help too

The electricity companies would not like it but it shouldn’t be their call. Wind was generating nearly 20% of our power recently (OK at night) an it wouldn’t be hard to introduce a 'lower than economy 7' tariff that could be used in domestic water heaters and industrial units where the storage of cheap energy in the form of heat can easily be made economical.

A friend is looking at a biomass heater and the sales pitch for the heat store reckons you can go on holiday for a month and still come back to hot water!

But hydrogen generation and reconversion was 85% efficient in the early 90's and that's before you use the spare O2 to increase burning efficiency elsewhere.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Thermal stores would help too

> Wind was generating nearly 20% of our power recently

It must have been for a very short period of time as I have rarely seen the generation rise above 3GW (it is currently at 3.5GW so today is an exception) let alone reach the dizzy heights of 6GW. When did it achieve this feat?

> an it wouldn’t be hard to introduce a 'lower than economy 7' tariff

Economy 7 currently requires a second meter so to have a third timed tariff it would require either a 3rd meter or a smart meter. The rollout of smart meters is costing about £12 billion, which will ultimately be paid for by the consumers.

> storage of cheap energy in the form of heat can easily be made economical.

Those of us who have had the Economy 7 and the storage heaters know just how crap they are. Storing the energy as heat is no use if you want the energy to run an air conditioner/fan in the summer.

> the sales pitch for the heat store reckons you can go on holiday for a month and still come back to hot water!

Lets see him put that in writing. I would also like to know what his definition of hot water is. Although, to be fair, it only takes efficient insulation to keep water hot, the problem is getting it hot in the first place.

> But hydrogen generation and reconversion was 85% efficient in the early 90's

Err no. Hydrogen has a turnaround efficiency of about 50% and that is with using the generated oxygen.

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Re: Thermal stores would help too

"hydrogen generation and reconversion was 85% efficient in the early 90's"

Hydrogen generation by electrolysis is not very efficient at all. Could you also explain how the spare oxygen can sig. increase the burning efficiency ?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Thermal stores would help too

I hate to be 'That Guy' but it was generating 20% of our electricity, not our total power needs. Our total power needs include petrol/diesel/kerosene which it didnt touch, but fair enough it's pretty clear that's not what the stats in the paper meant.

As for home power? Most of the energy use in most houses is actually gas- as your laptop, TV, washing machine get ever more efficient the good old gas boiler remains the same. So they were covering 20% of a small number. That's still pretty impressive, not nowhere near a viable thing to depend on YET.

And Hydrogen nowadays comes from Methane, releasing Carbon compounds. Electrolysis was pretty fabulously inefficient last time I checked.

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Re: Thermal stores would help too

Coming home to hot water after a long time if you've got your own generation is pretty easy, my immersion runs off my solar panels when I have excess generation (this did happen in the summer when it was sunny for weeks an weeks not so much now) and didn't use the gas for heating water for about 4 months. Now I can't generate enough to heat a cup of water to mildly warm, but that's how solar works...

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Boffin

Re: Thermal stores would help too

"Storing the energy as heat is no use if you want the energy to run an air conditioner/fan in the summer."

There are also existing systems (some very large scale) which use cheap overnight energy to chill/freeze a storage tank to provide building cooling.

Assuming the power is available at the right price and there is room for the thermal store it seems like a very simple and obvious way to provide a cooling system.

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Re: good old gas boiler remains the same.

Tell you what, you keep improving those efficiencies and let me know when they match the 98% of the modern gas furnace. Then we'll talk about the desirability of you the amount of real estate your green system is going to require to power the townhouse I live in.

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Re: Thermal stores would help too

Wind provides more than you think.....

I just retrieved the data provided by NETA's BMRS ( Balancing Mechanism Reporting System), at www.bmreports.com for the contribution to the National Grid by metered wind power between 9 Dec and 9 Jan, and graphed it at the link below. (The vertical scale is in MW.) [Apologies if a link such as this isn't permitted: there seemed to be no way to include images in the response -- at least, not for first-time posters.]

http://www.scifun.ed.ac.uk/downloads/images/Wind-9Dec-9Jan.gif

As you can see, it exceeded 3GW almost continuously, and 5GW on many occasions. And this, remember, is only the metered contribution. Another 50% is provided by embedded systems -- in other words, wind turbines providing electrical power that shows up only as a reduction in demand. (So this graph can be scaled up by another 50%, for a true reflection of wind's contribution over the last month.)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Thermal stores would help too

> dizzy heights of 6GW. When did it achieve this feat?

Not that I'm a fan of wind in the slightest but past couple of week 5 - 6GW has been the norm (metered, another 50% unmetered).

http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk/index.php

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"Wind provides more than you think....."

The gridwatch site shows clearly how wind delivers only 25% or so of its maximum capacity, and how variable it is. Other generators are still needed for the 70%+ when wind doesn't work.

http://gridwatch.templar.co.uk/

There is an argument that the losses and carbon cost of backup generators, which are ramped up and down to cope with fluctuations, and strengthening of the grid to cope with larger swings negate much of the 'green' benefit. Without local medium-term energy storage, which is probably further off than fusion, the scope of wind energy is really quite limited.

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Wind generation

The output from metered grid connected wind turbines has been bouncing between 3 and 6GW for the past month while a series of Atlantic storms have been hammering the country with the newsreaders and pundits saying things like "unprecedented" and "worst flooding for thirty years". A couple of months ago the same network of over a thousand wind turbines produced about 50MW for a day or so as a calm high-pressure area sat over the UK.

Looking at the curves in the gridwatch site others have referenced the dataplate 7GW of installed wind capability produces on average about 2 to 2.5GW but that's an average and it can and does go way under that for hours and days on end whereas electricity demand is always with us, cyclic but predictable.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Wind generation

> have referenced the dataplate 7GW of installed wind capability

You are being far to generous. The 7GW is only onshore wind, there is also offshore of 3.5GW so on average it produces 2 to 2.5GW out of a possible 10.5GW.

During most of the summer the output was less than 1GW.

In a week or so when the air pressure increases and the wind speed drops, so will the temperature and the output from the wind turbines will also plummet.

In this country we get our coldest temperatures in winter, and our warmest in summer, when there is a high pressure system and little to no wind. This makes wind turbines useless at times of peak demand.

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Re: Thermal stores would help too

yes thermal stores would help for all space heating uses of electricity because storing low grade heat is one of the easiest and cheapest things to do.,

But don't think it makes renewable energy look any less useless than it does already. We already have a night tariff because we have a low night time demand.Intermittent renewables merely make the problems worse, easting into night time baseload profits and refusing to generate for evening peaks.

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Re: Thermal stores would help too

http://gridwatch.templar.co.uk

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Re: Thermal stores would help too

" Most of the energy use in most houses is actually gas- as your laptop, TV, washing machine get ever more efficient the good old gas boiler remains the same."

Um, these items only get "more efficient" as they are replaced. Same with boilers - our old one (1980s) was <70% efficient, new one is >90%.

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Re: Thermal stores would help too

Energy demand is very uneven, so we need sources of on-demand power as well as long-term storage. Alas wind doesn't always happen when we want it to, but how about running hydro-elecrtic turbines in reverse? Pump a shedload of water to somewhere of higher gravitational potential energy, can be turned back to leccy pretty quickly

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Thermal stores would help too

"but how about running hydro-elecrtic turbines in reverse? Pump a shedload of water to somewhere of higher gravitational potential energy, can be turned back to leccy pretty quickly"

It is called Dinorwig Power Station and has been operational since 1984. It can generate 1800MW of electricity for 6 hours before it runs out of water. It takes 75 seconds to go from a complete standstill to full power output.

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Rhubab haters

Bah! Rhubarb needs a more sophisticated pallet to fully enjoy ;)

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Headmaster

Re: Rhubab haters

You need a whole pallet of rhubarb for your palate to enjoy it?

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Paris Hilton

Re: Rhubab haters

Paris, because she'd know where to find a whole pallet load of sophisticated rhubarb...

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Hopefully this will push rhubarb prices so high that it need never curse a dessert bowl again.

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When I were a lad

Me mum used to make Rhubarb crumple wi' little bits of date just under t' crumple and a touch of cinnamon, covered wi' lashings o' custard. Luxury!

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Flame

Re: When I were a lad

Oh god no. You sound dangerously like Geoffrey Boycott.

The only thing worse than the taste of Rhubarb is the mention of it by Boycott. Why did CMJ have to be the one that died?

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Great choice, Rhubarb goes wonderfully with both Apples and Blackberries!

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What we want is...

Rhubarb Tart!

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Joke

This doesn't surprise me

I always put currants in my crumble

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Roobarb

The flow battery sounds like the sort of gizmo our animated hero would knock up in his shed.

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Happy

Re: Roobarb

Whilst Custard the cat falls off the fence laughing... :-)

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Flow batteries

Have been posited as a way of solving recharge delays in electric vehicles since the 1980s

So far they've come to naught.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Flow batteries

The possibility of mechanically propelled flying carriages has been posited as a way of traversing the globe since 1670.

So far they've come to naught

(Grandfather Brown, 1883)

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Re: Flow batteries

There are some experimental flow systems in use, but so far the biggest limitation with flow batteries has been concern over the electrolytes getting spilled during crashes. So far these have been noxious substances. If a more friendly electrolyte can be found then flow batteries could take off.

Quick battery changing for solid batteries is not practical. Different vehicles will want different battery shapes and it is impractical for the filling stations to invest in piles of different battery sizes/shapes to support a wide range of vehicles. Imagine coming into the filling station and seeing they still have piles of the square batteries, but you need a round one and the last round one was just sold to the last customer. Also, battery exchange of heavy batteries would be troublesome, needing jacks, cranes or such.

Flow is much handier. Just pump it. It takes on the shape of the tank. One size fits all. The motorist is already familiar with the idea of pumping so there is one less psycological barrier.

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