Most batteries that we use on a daily basis are chemical batteries.

They contain chemicals that react in some way to create a flow of electrons. Lead-acid batteries, alkaline batteries, Nickel-metal hydride batteries and lithium-ion batteries are all chemical batteries. See How Batteries Work and How Electricity Works for details. A flywheel battery is a form of mechanical battery. It uses the kinetic energy stored in a flywheel, rather than a chemical reaction, to create a flow of electrons. Flywheel batteries are very simple mechanical systems. To “charge the battery”, electricity drives an electric motor that spins up a flywheel. To use the battery, a generator converts the kinetic energy stored in the spinning flywheel back into electricity. A flywheel battery a number of advantages compared to a chemical battery: 1) The ability to absorb and store quick bursts of energy efficiently 2) High efficiency – very little energy is lost when charging the battery (spinning up the flywheel) or discharging the battery. 3) Long lifetime – chemical batteries tend to wear out after some number of charge/discharge cycles (500 to 1,000 cycles is typical). Flywheel systems do not. 4) Lower maintenance costs compared to battery system (no battery replacements costs, for example) The main disadvantage of flywheel batteries is their minimum size. It is unlikely that a flywheel battery would ever be found in a cell phone, for example. On the other hand, a flywheel battery would be ideally suited for things like whole-house batteries, UPS batteries and so on. Modern technology has made flywheel batteries more sophisticated than you might imagine. As this article points out: Today, carbon fiber flywheels exist that can be spun fast enough to hold 20 times more energy than steel wheels of equal mass—and these materials continue to improve…. It’s now taken for granted that any flywheel energy system will use magnetic bearings, which levitate the wheel within a vacuum enclosure so that it spins in a nearly friction-free environment. Flywheels in a system like this can glide along for months once they’re fully spun up, and under experimental conditions some have spun for up to two years without outside influence. The following video shows a typical application of a flywheel battery. Here it is being used to store energy for a cut-over UPS for a data center. The flywheel battery needs to supply electricity long enough (about 15 seconds) for the data center’s diesel generators to kick in after a power failure:

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