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For all their usefulness, batteries are a toxic mess. Electrolytes, the medium that moves a battery’s electric charge from one pole to the other, are a slough of sometimes-flammable toxins that can include cadmium, ammonium chloride, and sulfuric acid. When batteries are used up and thrown away, those poisons can go into soils and water reservoirs.
That’s why scientists at the University of Central Florida are perfecting a battery that uses ocean water as its electrolyte.
Saltwater batteries aren’t a new idea; the U.S. Army has been tinkering with them for years and finally has a version delivering enough voltage to run small household appliances. 
Seawater batteries work best with a zinc anode, the pole sending electrons into the electrolyte to be harvested on the far side by the cathode. But zinc anodes typically grow barnacles of extra zinc, shortening the batteries’ lifespan and limiting their practicality.
The Florida researchers have found that coating the zinc anode with a zinc-manganese nanolayer creates a barrier that doesn’t let the zinc globs grow. The Florida battery has tested 1,000 hours of heavy charging and discharging with no deterioration.
The developers see their new design being used first in ocean-going vessels but are confident the technology can be equally useful ashore.
TRENDPOST: The energy revolution now underway depends on innovations in battery tech as much as on solar panels or breakthroughs in fuel cell design. Battery designs using nontoxic compounds and that forgo rare elements will be cheaper, easier to build, and will gain a market advantage.

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