Researchers from GE and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) are developing a water-based flow battery targeted at EVs. The system uses water-based solutions of inorganic chemicals that are capable of transferring more than one electron, providing high-energy density. Discharge and re-charge of such flow batteries occur in electrochemical cells separated from energy storing tanks, which makes them safer.
The GE/Berkeley Lab project was selected by the Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) to receive $899,958 in funding under the RANGE (Robust Affordable Next Generation EV-Storage) program. (Earlier post.)
Aside from offering significant advantages in terms of cost and range, the flow battery GE is researching would offer safety improvements over batteries used in cars today, and could be easily integrated into current car designs—both of these being stated goals of ARPA-E’s RANGE program.
Over the next year, the GE/Berkeley Lab team will demonstrate feasibility of this new battery concept and develop a working prototype.
We’re excited about the impact this new technology could have on electric vehicles, especially as it relates to cost and the need to recharge. Our flow battery could be just one-fourth the price of car batteries on the market today, while enabling roughly three-times the current driving range. The DOE wants a battery that can power a car for 240 miles; we think we can exceed that.—Grigorii Soloveichik, project leader on the water-based flow battery project at GE Global Research and director of the GE-led Energy Frontier Research Center (EFRC)
GE says that the work on this project will greatly benefit from the skills and knowledge acquired from GE’s ongoing role in the DOE’s EFRC program. GE’s EFRC—CETM, the Center for Electrocatalysis, Transport Phenomena, and Materials for Innovative Energy Storage—was designed specifically for building a fundamental base for next-generation energy storage technologies.
CETM’s focus is the development of basic science that lays the foundation for enabling the next generation of effective, flexible, and safe fuel cell systems for mobile and stationary applications based on the use of reversible, high energy density liquid organic fuels.
In the proposed system, energy is extracted by partial oxidation of an energy-dense organic liquid fuel, forming a stable hydrogen depleted compound. The direct extraction of protons and electrons at the anode would utilize homogeneous electrocatalysts and ideally proceed without production of hydrogen gas. Protons and electrons combine with oxygen at the cathode to produce a voltage and water as the sole reduction product.
The rechargeable system is based on a reversible electrochemical reaction combining the best properties of a fuel cell and flow battery for stationary and mobile applications.
Participating organizations in CETM include GE Global Research, Yale University– Crabtree Group, Yale University–Batista Group, Stanford University, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. GE Global Research is the only corporate research laboratory chosen to lead one of the 46 EFRCs.
The opportunity to expand our collaboration with GE from the EFRC to applied research under ARPA-E is of great interest. We have had great success in developing high-power traditional flow batteries, and the possibility of using that expertise for a high-energy flow battery is quite compelling.—Adam Weber, Berkeley Lab Staff Scientist and PI for this project
C. Moyses Araujo, Davide L. Simone, Steven J. Konezny, Aaron Shim, Robert H. Crabtree, Grigorii L. Soloveichik and Victor S. Batista (2012) Fuel selection for a regenerative organic fuel cell/flow battery: thermodynamic considerations. Energy Environ. Sci., 5, 9534-9542 doi: 10.1039/C2EE22749E
Tucker, Michael C., Venkat Srinivasan, Philip N. Ross, and Adam Z. Weber (2013) Performance and cycling of the iron-ion/hydrogen redox flow cell with various catholyte salts. Journal of Applied Electrochemistry 43, no. 7: 637-644 doi: 10.1007/s10800-013-0553-2.