• Tech Tech

Scientists find remarkable battery potential while studying aftermath of volcanic eruption: 'Cost-effective solutions and potential energy storage savings'

Cheaper, better batteries for solar power can help us tap into this unlimited clean energy source.

Cheaper, better batteries for solar power can help us tap into this unlimited clean energy source.

Photo Credit: iStock

What if one of nature's most destructive forces could be harnessed to store clean energy and power our sustainable future?

That's the exciting potential of a new discovery by researchers at the University of Barcelona, who found that volcanic ash has a unique combination of properties that make it remarkably useful for storing solar energy, according to New Atlas.

When a volcano erupted on the island of La Palma in 2021, it blanketed the area in 200 million cubic meters of ash and igneous rock waste. But where most saw a mess, these scientists saw an opportunity. They tested the ash as a heat storage medium for concentrated solar power systems.

The results, published in the Journal of Energy Storage, were impressive: The volcanic ash exhibited excellent thermal conductivity, heat capacity, and stability over 1,000 heating and cooling cycles.

Even better, it played well with molten salts commonly used in thermal storage, helping reduce their corrosiveness while keeping them from solidifying.

As the researchers wrote in their paper, "Volcanic ash from La Palma Island has huge potential to be an alternative and sustainable material to be applied [in the] TES field. … [It offers] cost-effective solutions and potential energy storage savings."

So, what does this mean for us?

Concentrated solar power towers use mirrors to focus the sun's rays, generating temperatures over 1,000 degrees Celsius (1,832 degrees Fahrenheit). That intense heat can be stored for later use in "thermal batteries." By using low-cost, readily available volcanic ash in these systems, we could access a more efficient and cost-effective form of renewable energy storage.

Cheaper, better batteries for solar power can help us tap into this unlimited clean energy source, reducing our reliance on polluting gases. Moving away from coal, oil, and gas is key to protecting our communities from disasters like extreme weather, rising sea levels, floods, and wildfires.

The potential impact is huge. With the right energy storage solutions, solar power could provide more of the clean electricity we use to power our homes, businesses, and vehicles. Just imagine — your electric car or home appliances could one day be running on the power of the sun, captured by materials forged in the heart of a volcano.

While the research is still in early stages, it opens an exciting new path forward. The team plans to continue exploring the potential of volcanic ash batteries. So keep an eye out — this powerful innovation could be one more tool to help us build a brighter, more sustainable future for ourselves and our planet.

Join our free newsletter for weekly updates on the coolest innovations improving our lives and saving our planet.

Cool Divider