Researchers from IBM and ETH Zurich University have developed a tiny redox flow battery that can cool chips while supplying power to them. Besides, it dissipates much more heat than generating and generates sufficient energy to power a chip. It leads towards smaller, more effective chips, which store their own energy as well as devices that can be used for remote monitoring without any external power source.
Liquid redox flow batteries are normally used to store energy on a large scale. Recently, Harvard researchers developed a liquid flow battery that can last more than ten years with low maintenance, which is perfect for storing solar or wind energy. Scientists from IBM and ETH Zurich managed to find two liquids, which are ideal both as cooling agents and flow battery electrolytes.
“We are the first scientists to build such a small flow battery so as to combine energy supply and cooling,” says doctoral student Julian Marschewski.
The researchers developed a wedge-shaped micro-channel system using 3D printing technology, which provides the system with electrolytes using little pumping power. It generates electrodes that press liquid into the membrane layer where ions can flow, producing power. The resulting system is capable of generating 1.4 watts per square centimeter, with 1 watt left over for powering the battery after it takes pumping into account. In addition, it dissipates a lot more heat than it produces, pulling off the trick to power and cool the chips at the same time.
The idea of this redox flow battery needs to transfer from the research to the engineering stage as it needs to produce more energy than it does now. However, the battery has a lot of potential for chips, as well as solar cells that store energy directly into the battery cell, lasers that need internal cooling, and even large flow batteries that are optimized with liquid cooling channels.