Scientists from Harvard University have developed a electrolyte which may one day help flow batteries become a standard part of the infrastructure of the electric grid.
Using a pH neutral electrolyte, the team believe the technology could lead to flow batteries being used from residential to grid-scale applications.
The development hinges on the modification of the molecule viologen and ferrocene.
Eugene Beh, a postdoctoral fellow and first author of the research paper, published in ACS Energy Letters, changed the structure of the ferrocene molecule after observing how viologen decomposed in the negative electrolyte.
Beh then functionalised the ferrocene molecules the same way as the viologen to make the molecule soluble.
The new ferrocene molocule can both cycle safely and maintain 99% capacity over 1,000 cycles.
The research team from at John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) is now working with companies to improve and commercialise the technology.
The technology would allow the use of more cost effective hydrocarbon separators due to the electrolytes neutral pH.
The paper’s co-authors Roy Gordon, the Thomas Dudley Cabot Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Materials Science and Michael Aziz, said it would also allow the use of common materials, for the tanks and pumps, and to be situated in a house.
He said: “Because we were able to dissolve the electrolytes in neutral water, this is a long-lasting battery that you could put in your basement.
“If it spilled on the floor, it wouldn’t eat the concrete and since the medium is noncorrosive, you can use cheaper materials to build the components of the batteries, like the tanks and pumps.”
It comes as researchers try to meet The Department of Energy’s (DOE) goal of building a $100 per kW/h battery.
Imre Gyuk, director of Energy Storage Research at the Office of Electricity of the DOE said: “This work on aqueous soluble organic electrolytes is of high significance in pointing the way towards future batteries with vastly improved cycle life and considerably lower cost.
“I expect that efficient, long duration flow batteries will become standard as part of the infrastructure of the electric grid.”
The research was undertaken by a team at John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS).