Gelion Technology has launched a new type of zinc-bromide gel battery developed by researchers at the University of Sydney led by Professor Tom Maschmeyer.

The unique gel used in the batteries is not only non-flammable but actually a fire retardant. Professor Maschmeyer envisages the batteries being incorporated into the walls of buildings. The batteries have a capacity of 120 watts per kilogram – so a building incorporating the batteries into its walls could have a very large storage capacity.

The batteries use cheap, readily available materials and, so, are very price competitive. Professor Maschmeyer says that “We believe very strongly this will be a game changer because of the affordability. It means that we should be able to deliver it for the full system cost at around three cents per kilowatt hour. That’s about half or less than currently the case. A full system comprising a pre-fabricated wall with the battery occupying the wall cavity is expected to cost as little as three cents per kilowatt-hour.”

The concept for the battery started when a Dutch exchange student was set the task of making a membrane from an ionic liquid, which would selectively allow some things through and block others.  It didn’t work and the challenge for the student was downgraded to separating two dyes. That did work but only for dyes which had certain charges.

One day, Professor Maschmeyer was looking into flow batteries, which contain liquid electrolytes, and realised that you need to selectively allow some ions through and blocks, and that this could be done in an ionic gel using the student’s technique.

The idea was patented and the gel-ion battery developed.

The Gelion technology is in its early stages, with arrays of cells being tested on lighting rigs in Sydney University.