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Aviation Word - Hydroquinone

Bits & Pieces Newsletter - May 2014

Well, no, it’s not really an aviation word – and it won’t be – but Dr. Michael Aziz, a researcher at Harvard University, recently wrote about it in Nature journal regarding a relatively low-cost solution to the problem of storing large amounts of electricity produced by solar and wind farms, or by charging from the grid.

How does this relate to aviation? Well, imagine that one way of powering electric motors could be to use flow batteries. These batteries use an electrolyte that is stored externally in “fuel tanks”. The chemical solution is pumped over a membrane that allows the exchange of protons and electrons to take place. The best known of these uses a chemical solution based on the expensive element vanadium, but the new system uses organic hydroquinone. The process is reversible by recharging the electrolyte.

Unfortunately, this idea will never fly for aviation. I got that directly from Aziz himself. The energy density is much too low, he said, but Aziz sees the potential for massive stationary energy storage. Maybe that could be used as an intermediary to charge aircraft with lithium polymer batteries at remote locations.

What about you? Is anyone out there working on an electric aircraft? We know that the folks at eUp have an electric self-launched glider. Anyone else?

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