Common chemical offers storage potential

Australian scientists have found a common chemical used in toothpaste could help store energy produced by renewable sources, according to a report in RenewEconomy.

ANU associate professor and chemist Yun Liu has found titanium dioxide, a chemical widely used as a whitening pigment, could be used to build capacitors.

Liu and her team believe when manipulated at the molecular level, titanium dioxide meets the conditions required for energy storage, thanks to its dielectric constant that is substantially higher than other materials; excellent temperature independence; and low levels of energy loss.

“We believe this work breaks through the log-jam associated with the practical development of … materials for use in large capacitors and high-energy-density storage devices,” the team was quoted in the Nature Materials journal.

The discovery could help overcome a hurdle in the large-scale use of renewable energy resources, helping to integrate them into existing power grids by balancing the power going into the grid with the demand for power at any given time, RenewEconomy says.

“Our material performs significantly better than existing high dielectric constant materials so it has huge potential,” Liu told the ABC.

Liu believes the chemical could be used in solid-state supercapacitors to store enormous amounts of energy. The other major plus is that titanium dioxide is a simple and abundant material found naturally around the world and exported from Australia, which currently has a market monopoly in the material.