A crash course in changing the world.
Out planet is full to the brim with energy we can utilize. Life, sunshine, rainfall, geological forces and wind are but a few, and we're constantly learning cheaper and more efficient ways to harness these energies to fuel up our power grid. The most promising energy resource for my country is solar energy. Solar water boilers have been widely used here since the 1960s, and the rooftops of rural homes are slowly being covered with photoelectic panels.
Here's the problem, though: solar power is fickle. The sun doesn't always shine, and long cloudy periods during winter can seriously hamper the productivity of a solar-based power grid. Moreover, during nights and during the winter there's more demand for electricity than when the sun is up, meaning we don't have sun-power at the time we need it the most.
Therefore, an important step towards reliance on renewable energy sources is to have an efficient way of storing all the excess power created during the daylight hours to be used at night time and in winter. This is a problem, as anyone with a battery charger will tell you: current methods of storing electiricity are highly inefficient.
This is why it's good to have people like Eric Isaacs and the good folks at Argonne National Labs. The labs, which are funded by the US Ministry of Energy, are working on a lithium-air battery, which uses air as a cathode (the '-' side of the battery). The batteries, which will be able to store larger amounts of energy, will also be light and easy to move around.
The main disadvantage of the lithium-air batteries is that lithium is a toxic material. It is also likely that they will not be rechargeable, and will eventually generate toxic waste. Still, Li-Air battery can offer a cheap and effective way of storing excess power, ridding us of the need to generate more electricity than we actually use, and allowing us to rely more on renenwable but inconsistent energy sources.
It should be noted that this is not part of a private enterprise, but the creation of a government agency. It will be a long time before such batteries are made safe and available to use, so private companies prefer to focus their R&D spending on more short-term solutions that will be profitible within the next few years. Argonne Labs show the need for more long-term oriented research sponsored by governments and NGOs and independent from market trends.