Inexpensive, Metal-free, Organic Flow Battery

University of Southern California (USC)
An Inexpensive Metal-free Organic Redox Flow Battery for Grid-scale Storage
USC
Program: 
ARPA-E Award: 
$2,719,018
Location: 
Los Angeles, CA
Project Term: 
03/01/2013 to 05/31/2017
Project Status: 
ACTIVE
Technical Categories: 
Critical Need: 
Our national electric grid has limited ability to store excess energy, so electricity must constantly be over-generated to assure reliable supply. Though wind and solar power are promising clean alternatives to fossil fuels, their natural unpredictability and intermittency make them incapable of delivering the power on-demand necessary to operate today's grid. The U.S. needs technologies that can cost-effectively store renewable energy for future grid use at any location. Flexible, large-scale storage would create a stronger and more robust electric grid by enabling renewables to contribute to reliable power generation.
Project Innovation + Advantages: 
USC is developing a water-based, metal-free, grid-scale flow battery that will be cheaper and more rapidly produced than other batteries. Flow batteries store chemical energy in external tanks instead of within the battery container. This allows for cost-effective scalability because adding storage capacity is as simple as expanding the tank. Batteries for grid-scale energy storage must be inexpensive, robust, and sustainable--many of today's mature battery technologies do not meet all these requirements. Using innovative designs and extremely low-cost organic materials, USC's new flow battery has the potential to reduce cost, increase durability, and store increased amounts of excess energy, thereby promoting greater renewable energy deployment.
Potential Impact: 
If successful, USC's flow battery would use readily available chemicals as its active material and withstand 2-3 times as many charge and discharge cycles as today's best grid-scale storage technologies at 20% of the cost.
Security: 
A more efficient and reliable grid would be more resilient to potential disruptions.
Environment: 
Electricity generation accounts for over 40% of U.S. carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Enabling large-scale contributions of wind and solar power for our electricity generation would result in a substantial decrease in CO2 emissions.
Economy: 
Increases in the availability of wind and solar power would reduce fossil fuel demand, resulting in reduced fuel prices and more stable electricity rates.
Contacts
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Grigorii Soloveichik
Project Contact: 
Prof. Sri Narayan
Partners
ITN Energy Systems, Inc.
Release Date: 
11/28/2012