SEAS research team removes toxins from flow battery, making it safer, cost-effective
A team of Harvard scientists and engineers has demonstrated a rechargeable battery that could make storing electricity from intermittently available energy sources, like sun and wind, safe and cost-effective for both residential and commercial use.
The new research builds on earlier work by members of the same team that could enable cheaper and more reliable electricity storage at the grid level.
In the new battery, electrons are picked up and released by compounds composed of inexpensive, Earth-abundant elements (carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, iron and potassium) dissolved in water. The compounds are nontoxic, nonflammable, and widely available, making them safer and cheaper than other battery systems.
“This is chemistry I’d be happy to put in my basement,” said Michael J. Aziz, the Gene and Tracy Sykes Professor of Materials and Energy Technologies at the Harvard Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), and the project’s principal investigator. “The nontoxicity and cheap, abundant materials placed in water solution mean that it’s safe — it can’t catch on fire — and that’s huge when you’re storing large amounts of electrical energy anywhere near people.”
The research appears in a paper published today in the journal Science.
This new battery chemistry was discovered by postdoctoral fellow Michael Marshak and graduate student Kaixiang Lin working together with co-lead author Roy Gordon, the Thomas Dudley Cabot Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Materials Science at Harvard.
“We combined a common organic dye with an inexpensive food additive to increase our battery voltage by about 50 percent over our previous materials,” said Gordon. The findings “deliver the first high-performance, nonflammable, nontoxic, noncorrosive, and low-cost chemicals for flow batteries.”
Unlike solid-electrode batteries, flow batteries store energy in liquids contained in external tanks, similar to fuel cells. The tanks (which set the energy capacity), as well as the electrochemical conversion hardware through which the fluids are pumped (which sets peak power capacity), can be sized independently. Since the amount of energy that can be stored can be arbitrarily increased by scaling up the size of the tanks, greater amounts of energy can be stored at lower cost than traditional battery systems.
Improving on improvements
The active components of electrolytes in most flow battery designs have been metal ions, such as vanadium dissolved in acid. The metals can be expensive, corrosive, tricky to handle, and kinetically sluggish, leading to inefficiencies. Last year, Aziz and his Harvard colleagues demonstrated a flow battery that replaced metals with organic (carbon-based) molecules called quinones. Quinones are abundant, naturally occurring chemicals that are integral to biological processes such as photosynthesis and cellular respiration.
While quinones in a water solution formed the negative electrolyte side of the battery, the positive side relied on a conventional bromine-bearing electrolyte that is used in several other batteries. The high performance and low cost of the technology, which Harvard has licensed to a company in Europe, hold the potential to provide scalable grid-level storage solutions to utilities.
But bromine’s toxicity and volatility make it most suitable for settings where trained professionals can deal with it safely behind secure fences.
So the team began searching for a new recipe that would provide comparable storage advantages — inexpensive, long-lasting, efficient — using chemicals that could be safely deployed in homes and businesses. Their new battery replaces bromine with a nontoxic and noncorrosive ion called ferrocyanide.
“It sounds bad because it has the word ‘cyanide’ in it,” said co-lead author Marshak, who is now assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Colorado Boulder. “Cyanide kills you because it binds very tightly to iron in your body. In ferrocyanide, it’s already bound to iron, so it’s safe. In fact, ferrocyanide is commonly used as a food additive, and also as a fertilizer.”
Because ferrocyanide is highly soluble and stable in alkaline rather than acidic solutions, the Harvard team paired it with a quinone compound that is soluble and stable under alkaline conditions, in contrast to the acidic environment of the original battery they developed last year.
Marshak compared exposure to the concentrated alkaline solution to coming into contact with a damaged disposable AA battery. “It’s not something you want to eat or splash around in, but outside of that it’s really not a problem.”
There are other advantages to using alkaline solution. Because it is noncorrosive, the flow battery system components can be made of simpler and much less expensive materials, such as plastics.
“First-generation flow batteries were single-element couples — transition metals like vanadium or iron or chrome,” said Michael Perry, project leader for electrochemical systems at United Technologies Research Center, who was not involved in the work. “Now we’re seeing the possibility of engineered molecules giving us the properties and attributes that we want in one complete system. More work is required and justified, but the Harvard team is really demonstrating the promise of next-generation chemistries.”
Harvard’s Office of Technology Development has been working closely with the research team to navigate the shifting complexities of the energy storage market and build relationships with companies well-positioned to commercialize the new chemistries.
Switch to storage instead of “net metering”
The demand for battery storage is driven as much by regulatory factors as by economic ones. In some states, as well as many parts of the world, if it can’t be used instantly to meet, solar energy incident on solar panels goes to waste if the electricity isn’t stored. However, in many states, customers have the right to sell electricity produced by rooftop solar panels at high consumer rates under a regulatory scheme called “net metering.” Under those circumstances, consumers have little incentive to install batteries. However, market experts like William W. Hogan, the Raymond Plank Professor of Global Energy Policy at Harvard Kennedy School, believe that such policies are ultimately “uneconomic and unsustainable.” And as more and more homeowners install solar panels, utilities are opposing requirements to buy electricity from their customers.
Hogan says net metering is one of a series of “regulatory gimmicks designed to make solar more attractive” and predicts that eventually consumers with rooftop photovoltaic panels will lose the option of exchanging electricity for discounts on their utility bills. When that happens, homeowners will have an incentive to invest in battery storage.
Read more: Green storage for green energy grows cleaner
The Latest on: Green Energy Storage
via Google News
The Latest on: Green Energy Storage
- Meet the Startup Aiming to Turn Skyscrapers Into Clean Energy Batterieson November 12, 2019 at 2:26 pm
Systems will be used in complex ways, and energy storage will increasingly become a “practical alternative to new-build generation or network reinforcement,” according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
- The US Department of Energy Announces $128 million Plan to Boost Solaron November 11, 2019 at 4:05 pm
Nicki Zvik, Founder of Green Solar Technologies, comments on the recent announcement by the DOE ... for CSP-generated electricity with at least 12 hours of thermal energy storage. This research ...
- EGEB: Los Angeles approves largest solar and storage system in the US, moreon November 7, 2019 at 12:08 pm
Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti is the new chair of C40, a coalition of 94 global city mayors who have committed to a Green New Deal and are recognizing the climate ... approval of power purchase ...
- Energy Storage Moves Up The Agenda For Teslaon November 6, 2019 at 1:48 pm
The situation is analogous to what is happening in the USA. US utilities are another growing source of energy storage. Different utilities do however have very differing policies. Tesla has supplied ...
- ‘Green energy’ gets a jolt after L.A. City Council approves major DWP solar project agreementon November 6, 2019 at 1:16 pm
LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday approved a Department of Water and Power purchasing agreement to connect to the Eland Solar and Battery Energy Storage Projects, a feat ...
- Storing Energy from Renewable Sources in a Totally Green Way | IDTechEx Research Articleon November 6, 2019 at 9:30 am
For more information see the IDTechEx report on Batteries for Stationary Energy Storage 2019-2029. More specifically ... plants which exploit the movement of water to transform potential energy into ...
- Croissant-inspired green energy storage offers highest density of its kindon October 17, 2019 at 5:00 pm
“This finding promises to have a significant impact on the field of pulse power applications and could produce a step-change in the field of dielectric capacitors, so far limited by their low energy ...
- Green energy storage: Enhanced stability for rechargeable batterieson October 3, 2019 at 5:00 pm
Green energy grids will require large scale ... low-cost electrode material , and easy battery assembly makes the battery promising for grid-scale energy storage applications,” the authors say in ...
- High-performance flow batteries could enable grid-level green energy storageon July 26, 2019 at 5:54 am
A low-cost, high-performance battery chemistry developed by University of Colorado Boulder researchers could one day lead to scalable grid-level storage for wind and solar energy, which in turn could ...
- Property Insurance Considerations For Green Energy Storageon November 27, 2018 at 10:49 am
Energy storage is the missing link for the renewable energy power sources of wind and solar, which are intermittent with nature. When the sun sets, the wind dies down or electricity demand peaks, ...
via Bing News