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 Researchers produce synthetic Hall Effect to achieve one-way radio transmission
13.09.2019 | University of Illinois College of Engineering

nachricht Penn engineers' new topological insulator reroutes photonic 'traffic' on the fly
13.09.2019 | University of Pennsylvania

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: Tomorrow´s coolants of choice

Scientists assess the potential of magnetic-cooling materials

Later during this century, around 2060, a paradigm shift in global energy consumption is expected: we will spend more energy for cooling than for heating....

Im Focus: The working of a molecular string phone

Researchers from the Department of Atomically Resolved Dynamics of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg, the University of Potsdam (both in Germany) and the University of Toronto (Canada) have pieced together a detailed time-lapse movie revealing all the major steps during the catalytic cycle of an enzyme. Surprisingly, the communication between the protein units is accomplished via a water-network akin to a string telephone. This communication is aligned with a ‘breathing’ motion, that is the expansion and contraction of the protein.

This time-lapse sequence of structures reveals dynamic motions as a fundamental element in the molecular foundations of biology.

Im Focus: Milestones on the Way to the Nuclear Clock

Two research teams have succeeded simultaneously in measuring the long-sought Thorium nuclear transition, which enables extremely precise nuclear clocks. TU Wien (Vienna) is part of both teams.

If you want to build the most accurate clock in the world, you need something that "ticks" very fast and extremely precise. In an atomic clock, electrons are...

Im Focus: Graphene sets the stage for the next generation of THz astronomy detectors

Researchers from Chalmers University of Technology have demonstrated a detector made from graphene that could revolutionize the sensors used in next-generation space telescopes. The findings were recently published in the scientific journal Nature Astronomy.

Beyond superconductors, there are few materials that can fulfill the requirements needed for making ultra-sensitive and fast terahertz (THz) detectors for...

Im Focus: Physicists from Stuttgart prove the existence of a supersolid state of matte

A supersolid is a state of matter that can be described in simplified terms as being solid and liquid at the same time. In recent years, extensive efforts have been devoted to the detection of this exotic quantum matter. A research team led by Tilman Pfau and Tim Langen at the 5th Institute of Physics of the University of Stuttgart has succeeded in proving experimentally that the long-sought supersolid state of matter exists. The researchers report their results in Nature magazine.

In our everyday lives, we are familiar with matter existing in three different states: solid, liquid, or gas. However, if matter is cooled down to extremely...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Society 5.0: putting humans at the heart of digitalisation

10.09.2019 | Event News

Interspeech 2019 conference: Alexa and Siri in Graz

04.09.2019 | Event News

AI for Laser Technology Conference: optimizing the use of lasers with artificial intelligence

29.08.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Too much of a good thing: overactive immune cells trigger inflammation

16.09.2019 | Life Sciences

Scientists create a nanomaterial that is both twisted and untwisted at the same time

16.09.2019 | Materials Sciences

Researchers have identified areas of the retina that change in mild Alzheimer's disease

16.09.2019 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>