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Electrical energy storage with engineered biological systems

ABSTRACT

The availability of renewable energy technologies is increasing dramatically across the globe thanks to their growing maturity. However, large scale electrical energy storage and retrieval will almost certainly be a required in order to raise the penetration of renewable sources into the grid. No present energy storage technology has the perfect combination of high power and energy density, low financial and environmental cost, lack of site restrictions, long cycle and calendar lifespan, easy materials availability, and fast response time. Engineered electroactive microbes could address many of the limitations of current energy storage technologies by enabling rewired carbon fixation, a process that spatially separates reactions that are normally carried out together in a photosynthetic cell and replaces the least efficient with non-biological equivalents. If successful, this could allow storage of renewable electricity through electrochemical or enzymatic fixation of carbon dioxide and subsequent storage as carbon-based energy storage molecules including hydrocarbons and non-volatile polymers at high efficiency. In this article we compile performance data on biological and non-biological component choices for rewired carbon fixation systems and identify pressing research and engineering challenges.