Scientists develop a better redox flow battery

How the redox flow battery works. Credit: USC

USC scientists have developed a new battery that could solve the electricity storage problem constraining widespread use of renewable energy.

The technology is a new spin on a known design that stores electricity in solutions, sorts the electrons and releases power when it’s needed. So-called redox flow batteries have been around awhile, but the USC researchers have built a better version based on low-cost and readily available materials.

“We have demonstrated an inexpensive, long-life, safe and eco-friendly flow attractive for storing the energy from solar and wind energy systems at a mass-scale,” said chemistry professor Sri Narayan, lead author for the study and co-director of the Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute at USC.

The study was published today in the Journal of the Electrochemical Society.

Energy storage is a big hurdle for renewable power because power demand doesn’t always coincide when wind turbines spin or sunshine hits solar panels. The search for a viable storage solution faces multiple challenges, which is the problem the USC scientists sought to solve.

They focused on the redox flow battery because it’s proven technology and has been deployed in limited applications so far. It uses fluids to store electrochemical energy, sorting electrons and recombining by reduction and oxidation, and releasing them to make electricity when its needed.

The key innovation achieved by the USC scientists involves using different fluids: an iron sulfate solution and a type of acid. Iron sulfate is a waste product of the mining industry; it is plentiful and inexpensive. Anthraquinone disulfonic acid (AQDS) is an organic material, already used in some for its stability, solubility and energy storage…

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