UK Chemistry Researchers Awarded National Science Foundation Grant to Build a Battery Prototype

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  • Chemistry
  • Materials
  • Organic
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A team of scientists at the University of Kentucky and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have been awarded a National Science Foundation grant to develop a prototype of a battery utilizing chemical components prepared at UK. Professors Susan Odom and John Anthony (UK Chemistry) synthesized new organic compounds as donors and acceptors for a type of battery called a redox flow battery (RFB), currently of great interest for large-scale energy storage. In collaboration with James Landon (UK CAER) and Fikile Brushett (MIT), the team will investigate the operation of the new materials in a prototype.

This PFI: AIR Technology Translation project focuses on incorporating high concentration organic electrolytes for redox flow batteries (RFBs) into functional, high-voltage, stationary batteries. RFB have advantages for electrical grid-scale energy storage options, including peak leveling and frequency regulation, which would reduce overall energy consumption when linked with an electrical grid. RFBs are inherently well-suited for large applications such as these because they scale more cost effectively (power and energy capacities are decoupled) than most battery technologies.

This project investigates non-aqueous RFBs containing organic electro-active species. This proposed type of RFB has the following unique features relative to other RFB designs: higher operating voltages, non-corrosive electrolytes, smaller size, and use of scalable organic active materials (more environmentally friendly and potentially lower cost). The potential customer benefit would stem from more affordable options for stationary energy storage, enabling a greater reliance on renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, and improving energy efficiency of the electric grid, which together can reduce the anthropogenic generation of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel combustion.

Under this project, a prototype full-cell RFB with high concentrations of promising organic electro-active materials will be built and tested. To date, the lack of a demonstration of a high-concentration full cell has prevented an analysis of the performance and identification of the potential advantages and limitations of electro-active organic compounds. Moreover, performance-limiting factors associated with cell design or component failure are difficult to distinguish for active material decay. Full cell testing, at near practical conditions, is required to complete a thorough performance assessment.

The project engages United Technologies Research Center to provide additional testing assessments and to guide commercialization aspects in this technology translation effort from research discovery toward commercial reality.

Link to the award abstract:

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