Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Research gets closer to producing revolutionary battery to power renewable energy industry

15.03.2018

Any resident of the Great Plains can attest to the massive scale of wind farms that increasingly dot the countryside. In the Midwest and elsewhere, wind energy accounts for an ever-bigger slice of U.S. energy production: In the past decade, $143 billion was invested into new wind projects, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

However, the boom in wind energy faces a hurdle -- how to effectively and cheaply store energy generated by turbines when the wind is blowing, but energy requirements are low.


An advanced hydrogen-bromine flow battery could make renewables like wind and solar more profitable and widespread.

Credit: Trung Van Nguyen

"We get a lot of wind at night, more than at daytime, but demand for electricity is lower at night, so, they're dumping it or they lock up turbines -- we're wasting electricity," said Trung Van Nguyen, professor of petroleum & chemical engineering at the University of Kansas. "If we could store this excess at night and sell or deliver it during daytime at peak demand, this would allow wind farm owners to make more money and leverage their investment. At the same time, you deploy more wind energy and reduce demand for fossil fuels."

Since 2010, Nguyen has headed research to develop an advanced hydrogen-bromine flow battery, an advanced industrial-scale battery design -- it would be roughly the size of a semi-truck -- that engineers have strived to develop since the 1960s. It could work just as well to store electricity from solar farms, to be discharged overnight when there's no sun.

Funded first by the National Science Foundation and later by the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, Nguyen has worked with researchers from the University of California at Santa Barbara, Vanderbilt University, the University of Texas at Arlington and Case Western Reserve University. Along the way, Nguyen has overseen breakthrough work on key components of hydrogen-bromine battery design.

For one, there's the electrode Nguyen developed at KU. A battery's electrode is where the electrical current enters or leaves the battery when it's discharged. To be maximally efficient, an electrode needs a lot of surface area. Nguyen's team has developed a higher-surface-area carbon electrode by growing carbon nanotubes directly on the carbon fibers of a porous electrode.

"Before our work, people used paper-carbon electrodes and had to stack electrodes together to generate high-power output," he said. "The electrodes had to be a lot thicker and more expensive because you had to use multiples layers -- they were bulkier and more resistive. We came up with a simple but novel idea to grow tiny carbon nanotubes directly on top of carbon fibers inside of electrodes -- like tiny hairs -- and we boosted the surface area by 50-70 times. We solved the high-surface requirement for hydrogen-bromine battery electrodes."

A key issue remaining before a hydrogen-bromide battery can be marketed successfully is the development of an effective catalyst to accelerate the reactions on the hydrogen side of the battery and provide higher output while surviving the extreme corrosiveness in the system. Now, with funding from an NSF sub-award through a private company called Proton OnSite, Nguyen is verging on solving this last barrier.

"I think we're on the verge of a real breakthrough," he said. "We need a durable catalyst, something that has the same activity as the best catalyst out there, but that can survive this environment. Our previous material didn't have sufficient surface area to give enough power output. But I've been able to continue to work on this rhodium sulfide catalyst. I think we've figured out a way to increase surface area. We now have a better way, and we may publish that in three to six months -- we have some minor issues to resolve, but I think we'll have a suitable material for the hydrogen reaction in this system."

The new results to develop an industrial scale advanced hydrogen-bromine flow battery will be presented at the meeting of the Electrochemical Society in Seattle this May.

Indeed, Nguyen -- who has founded several startup companies over his research career -- noted the new hydrogen-bromine battery soon could be commercialized, and easily could be scaled to MW (power) MWh (energy) scales, coming in modular container form, about 1MWh in a full-size container. But he cautioned it could only be used in remote, industrial sites -- places like wind and solar farms, where the huge batteries likely would be buried underground.

"This energy storage system, because of its corrosiveness, isn't suitable for residential or commercial systems," he said. "Bromine is like chlorine gas. Dig a hole, line it with cement or plastic, drop this battery down and cover it up -- it should be in an enclosed or sealed system to prevent leakage or emission of bromine gas. This will be suitable only for large-scale remote energy storage like solar farms and wind farms."

The KU researcher said the rise of renewable energy would depend on technology breakthroughs that make the economics attractive to energy producers and investors, and he hoped his new battery design could play a part.

"The way we use fossil fuel for energy is very inefficient, wasteful and generates greenhouse gasses," Nguyen said. "For fossil fuels, you make the initial investment, and also you pay for operation every day -- pay for coal or for natural gas for rest of the life of the power plant. Once you make the initial investment in renewable, the electricity you make is free."

Media Contact

Brendan Lynch
brendan@ku.edu
785-864-8855

 @KUNews

http://www.news.ku.edu 

Brendan Lynch | EurekAlert!

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht Ultra-light gloves let users 'touch' virtual objects
16.10.2018 | Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

nachricht Chillventa 2018: Fraunhofer ISE Puts Focus on Heat Pumps
12.10.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Solare Energiesysteme ISE

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Storage & Transport of highly volatile Gases made safer & cheaper by the use of “Kinetic Trapping"

Augsburg chemists present a new technology for compressing, storing and transporting highly volatile gases in porous frameworks/New prospects for gas-powered vehicles

Storage of highly volatile gases has always been a major technological challenge, not least for use in the automotive sector, for, for example, methane or...

Im Focus: Disrupting crystalline order to restore superfluidity

When we put water in a freezer, water molecules crystallize and form ice. This change from one phase of matter to another is called a phase transition. While this transition, and countless others that occur in nature, typically takes place at the same fixed conditions, such as the freezing point, one can ask how it can be influenced in a controlled way.

We are all familiar with such control of the freezing transition, as it is an essential ingredient in the art of making a sorbet or a slushy. To make a cold...

Im Focus: Micro energy harvesters for the Internet of Things

Fraunhofer IWS Dresden scientists print electronic layers with polymer ink

Thin organic layers provide machines and equipment with new functions. They enable, for example, tiny energy recuperators. In future, these will be installed...

Im Focus: Dynamik einzelner Proteine

Neue Messmethode erlaubt es Forschenden, die Bewegung von Molekülen lange und genau zu verfolgen

Das Zusammenspiel aus Struktur und Dynamik bestimmt die Funktion von Proteinen, den molekularen Werkzeugen der Zelle. Durch Fortschritte in der...

Im Focus: Dynamics of individual proteins

New measurement method allows researchers to precisely follow the movement of individual molecules over long periods of time

The function of proteins – the molecular tools of the cell – is governed by the interplay of their structure and dynamics. Advances in electron microscopy have...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Berlin5GWeek: Private industrial networks and temporary 5G connectivity islands

16.10.2018 | Event News

5th International Conference on Cellular Materials (CellMAT), Scientific Programme online

02.10.2018 | Event News

Major Project: The New Silk Road

01.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Unravelling the genetics of fungal fratricide

16.10.2018 | Life Sciences

Blue phosphorus -- mapped and measured for the first time

16.10.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Berlin5GWeek: Private industrial networks and temporary 5G connectivity islands

16.10.2018 | Event News

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>