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New type of gravity battery may be able to store energy forever

Published Jan 30th, 2023 7:29PM EST
battery, power illustration
Image: KanawatTH / Adobe

The quest for unlimited and clean energy has been a long one, with over fifty-plus years in the endeavor to find new ways to combat climate change while also providing better energy solutions. One problem that has long hurt energy production is having a way to store excess energy so that it doesn’t diminish over time. A problem that could be solved with gravity batteries.

Essentially, this solution would rely on taking the excess power generated by wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources and storing it away in batteries made of loads of mass instead of something like what you use in your cellphone. These loads of mass would then be lifted high and stored there, to be lowered when you need additional power, thereby creating a gravity battery.

showing how a gravity battery would work by using potential energy
This illustration shows how energy is used to create potential energy, showcasing how a gravity battery would work. Image source: LuckySoul / Adobe

But how does that work as a battery? The basic idea is outlined in an article published on Big Think, and it is actually very simple. Think about how gravity works. When a ball rolls down a hill, it’s converting potential energy to kinetic energy because the ball is in motion, and that energy first started by expending energy to move the ball up the hill. The same principle applies to these gravity batteries.

By using energy to move loads of mass up a large vertical tunnel – like a mineshaft, for example – we essentially expend that energy. But, because the load of mass (which could be sand, rocks, dirt, or whatever) is lifted, we can now drop it, creating additional energy. So, while it isn’t a standard battery, the gravity battery can still work as an energy storage solution, just not in the usual manner you’d think.

This energy is traditionally referred to by scientists as gravitational potential energy, and while it isn’t electrical in nature, it could easily be converted to pull that energy from the motions of the gravity battery and then transfer it to electrical lines to deliver it wherever it is needed. It’s an off-the-wall kind of idea, but this kind of thinking often drives the biggest scientific breakthroughs in our civilization.

It also isn’t the first time that we’ve seen gravity used to recharge batteries, either. A train designed to run forever also uses a similar type of gravity battery process, which recharges whenever the train goes down hills, allowing it to run for as long as the track gives it recharging opportunities.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices. Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.