Stanford researchers use a compound in fertilizer to create inexpensive battery

stanford engineers use urea for low cost battery 68328970  university campus
spvvk/123RF
Ever the incubator for innovative ideas, Stanford University announced this week its engineers successfully developed a new type of low-cost battery capable of storing renewable energy. A breakthrough, no doubt, but what is particularly impressive is that the engineers used urea — a compound typically found in fertilizer or the urine of mammals — to create the battery. Aside from the wow factor of using something associated with compost or manure, the urea-based battery boasts a cost 100 times cheaper than similar batteries developed by the team in 2015.

In addition to the urea base, Stanford chemistry professor Hongjie Dai and doctoral candidate Michael Angell (the two engineers working on the battery) chose to use aluminum and graphite electrodes to maintain its cheap price tag. All told, Dai and Angell’s creation boasts the ability to stash an abundance of renewable energy for users to utilize during off hours. Compared to the same group’s battery from two years ago, the latest iteration dodges using a spendy electrolyte to keep cost down.

“So essentially, what you have is a battery made with some of the cheapest and most abundant materials you can find on Earth,” said Dai. “And it actually has good performance.”

Moving forward, Dai and Angell intend to evaluate the battery’s chemical process to help extend its lifespan. In order for the battery to reach commercial quality — and to serve the demands of grid storage — the battery must last at least 10 years. Concerning the battery’s charge time and rough estimate of cycles, the team says it is designed to take just 45 minutes to replenish and has the ability to endure roughly 1,500 different cycles. With patents already secured for the design — to a company founded by Dai called AB Systems — the immediate next step for the duo is to finish the creation of a standard commercial version.

Product Review

LG Gram 14 proves 2-in-1 laptops don’t need to sacrifice battery for light weight

The LG Gram 14 2-in-1 aims to be very light for a laptop that converts to a tablet. And it is. But it doesn’t skimp on the battery, and so it lasts a very long time on a charge.
Emerging Tech

Meet Wiliot, a battery-less Bluetooth chip that pulls power from thin air

A tiny chip from a semiconductor company called Wiliot could harvest energy out of thin air, the company claims. No battery needed. The paper-thin device pulls power from ambient radio frequencies like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and cell signals.
Computing

Keep your laptop battery in tip-top condition with these handy tips

Learn how to care for your laptop's battery, how it works, and what you can do to make sure yours last for years and retains its charge. Check out our handy guide for valuable tips, no matter what type of laptop you have.
Mobile

On a budget? We found the best affordable smartphones you can buy

Here are the best cheap phones for anyone working with a tight budget, whether you're a fan of stock Android or marathon battery life. Find out what you can get for under $500 or far, far less as we round up the best budget smartphones.
Product Review

Ring Video Doorbell 2 is the simplest entry into a smarter doorway

The Ring Video Doorbell 2 may lack the style and sophistication of premium door-dingers, but few can match its simplicity and versatility. The device, available in both wired and wireless configurations, is easy to set up and adds instant…
Smart Home

Ring security camera catches man licking the doorbell for hours

A family in Salinas, California had their Ring camera capture something pretty unexpected: a man licking the doorbell outside of their home for more than three hours. The incident took place around 5:00 a.m.
Health & Fitness

In search of the fountain of youth, beauty companies turn to tech

Beauty tech is a fairly new concept, but at CES 2019, companies such as Olay, L’Oreal, and Neutrogena were fully embracing it with all kinds of gadgets that promise to give you glowing skin.
Smart Home

GHSP makes a (back)splash with its touchscreen concept kitchen

One of the coolest concept kitchens from CES 2019 came from GHSP. It created a backsplash entirely made of touchscreens. That means the control panel for your kitchen is accessible no matter where you are.
Product Review

Kwikset Kevo Contemporary review

Tired of carrying around keys? Make keyless entry so easy that all you have to do is have your phone nearby to open the door. It’s a little pricey, but sleek lines and simple features make the Kwikset Kevo Contemporary a great choice for…
Smart Home

Airbnb says sorry to guest for how it dealt with undisclosed security camera

An Airbnb guest recently found a surveillance camera in his rental apartment that hadn't been properly disclosed in the listing. The firm admits its initial response to the guest's complaint was poor, but has since made amends.
Smart Home

Thinking of buying an Instant Pot? Here's what you need to know

The Instant Pot is a powerful kitchen appliance that does everything from pressure cook to to slow cook to steam. Heck, you can even make yogurt in it. Here's all you need to know about the magic device.
Smart Home

Want a smarter home? Ditch the keys with these great smart locks

A good smart lock should offer a combination of security and convenience. Fortunately, these devices keep your home protected, your family safe, and your belongings secure from possible intruders.
Smart Home

The best sous vide machines cook your food perfectly, every single time

Want to make four-star meals from the comforts of your own kitchen? Here are the best sous vide machines available right now, whether you prefer simple immersion circulators or something more complex.
Smart Home

Busted: Facebook Portal gets 5-star reviews from company employees

It's fair to say that Facebook's Portal smart display received a tepid response at launch, so it was something of a surprise to see lots of glowing reviews of the device on Amazon. Turns out some were written by Facebook workers.