Battery Breakthrough

Zinc batteries said to enable carbon-free energy storage

Lithium-ion batteries have a bold new challenger in the emerging energy storage market. During the One Planet Summit in New York City Wednesday, Patrick Soon-Shiong, chairman of NantEnergy and founder of that company’s research arm NantWorks, proclaimed a breakthrough in battery storage. Soon-Shiong unveiled that newly cultivated zinc-powered batteries may be an even more useful alternative. He noted that these “green, air-breathing batteries” avoid lithium and cobalt, replace diesel and lead-acid batteries, and present no risk of fire or environmental contamination.

Formerly known as Fluidic Energy, the Scottsdale-based Nant’s foundation and philosophy are centered around mass distribution of renewable energy.

NantEnergy headquarters in Scottsdale, Arizona.—NantEnergy photo

The reported breakthrough comes on the heels of NantWorks’ six-year mission to develop the world’s first scalable zinc rechargeable battery system at a manufacturing cost below $100 kWh—and to operate this digitally controlled system on a global scale. These rechargeable batteries, cleverly being marketed as “air-breathing cells”, use just zinc and air, integrated with digitally controlled intelligence, the company says. The complete energy system is monitored in real time in the cloud and has been successfully deployed in nine countries; with more than 3,000 systems supporting 110 villages and 1,000 installations across cell tower sites. “Over 100 patents cover this breakthrough zinc-air technology which represents an important alternative to lithium-ion batteries,” Nant says.

NantEnergy’s says manufacturing at scale will be available in 2019. An explanation of the zinc rechargeable battery’s function and impact is detailed on the chart below:

NantEnergy’s mission is to combine technology and nature to deliver reliable, affordable green energy to everyone, while avoiding the use of lithium, lead or fossil fuel sources of energy. The technology began with Thomas Edison who had tried to create a rechargeable zinc-derived battery, but the problem of zinc rechargeability bedeviled him. Over 100 years later, NantEnergy has solved that problem and has proven the viability and global scalability of deployment of the system. Now tested and refined for over the past six years, with the $100 per kWh barrier broken, large-scale deployment can begin.

“Zinc occurs naturally in the earth and in the food we eat; it is healthful and abundant,” Soon-Shiong continued. “The desire to develop zinc as a source of rechargeable energy has eluded scientists for a century and I am so proud of our scientific team who have made this important breakthrough. By harnessing nature and technology, we have created a path to solve carbon and other types of pollution and establish low-cost, decentralized energy which can provide power to people everywhere,” said Soon-Shiong, who is also Chairman and CEO of NantWorks. More details about the system, specified for microgrids, from Nant’s achievement:

How It Works: In Microgrids, Our System Generates Energy as Follows:

  • When sun is available, electricity is generated from photovoltaic solar panels and in the charge process, Zn Air battery system uses this electricity to convert zinc oxide to zinc and oxygen.

  • This electrochemical reaction generates zinc which serves as a storage form of energy.

  • In the discharge process, the battery system converts the electrochemical energy from the zinc by combining (oxidizing) the zinc with oxygen from air, generating electrons.

  • Thus, the cycle is from electricity generated from multiple sources, to zinc storage, via an electrochemical reaction, and then, to electrons leading to the transmission of electricity.

  • The breakthrough is in the ability of our system not only for zinc to retain its ability to charge for prolonged periods of time, but also for the cycle of charging and discharging of zinc to be sustained over 1,000s of repeated cycles without deterioration.

  • By breaching the manufacturing barrier of $100 kWh, we can electrify the world anywhere everywhere.


  1. Top 10 Most Read EA blog posts of 2018 | Electrical Apparatus Magazine - January 10, 2019

    […] Battery Breakthrough. The tenth most viewed EA blog post of 2018 is a look at zinc batteries and recent battery technology that was first published in the September 27, 2018 issue of the Direct & Current e-newsletter. […]

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