Lithium-ion batteries have become essential for powering electric cars and storing energy generated by solar panels and wind turbines.
On Wednesday, an energy company headed by the California billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong announced that it had developed a rechargeable battery operating on zinc and air that can store power at far less than the cost of lithium-ion batteries.
His energy company says it is the first to commercialize the use of zinc air batteries and has more than 100 related patents.
Energy storage is increasingly needed to manage the ebb and flow of solar and wind energy that sometimes forces places like California to pay other states to take surplus power.
Sherif Abdelrazek, a senior engineer at Duke Energy, said that because the zinc air battery does not pose fire hazards as lithium-ion batteries can, it does not need external cooling systems to prevent overheating.
Dan Reicher, an assistant secretary of energy in the Clinton administration, said successful development of a rechargeable zinc air battery could be a milestone in energy storage.
Batteries are not the only form of energy storage that the power industry is pursuing.