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Palo Alto Research Center

Reformer-less Oxygen Conducting Natural Gas Intermediate-Temperature Fuel Cell (RONIN)

Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) is developing an intermediate-temperature fuel cell that is capable of utilizing a wide variety of carbon-based input fuels such as methane, butane, propane, or coal without reformation. Current fuel cell technologies require the use of a reformer - which turns hydrocarbon fuels into hydrogen and can generate heat and produce gases. PARC's design will include a novel electrolyte membrane system that doesn't have a methane-to-hydrogen reformer, and transports oxygen in a form that allows it to react directly with almost any fuel. This new membrane system eliminates the need for a separate fuel processing system all while reducing overall costs. PARC's fuel cell will also operate at relatively low temperatures of 200-300ºC which allows it to use less expensive materials and maintain durability. With the use of these materials, the fuel cell system avoids the long-term durability problems associated with existing higher-temperature fuel cells, all while reducing overall costs.

Pennsylvania State University

Cold Sintering Composite Structures for Solid Lithium Ion Conductors

Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) will develop a process for cold-sintering of ceramic ion conductors below 200°C to achieve a commercially viable process for integration into batteries. Compared to liquid electrolytes, ceramics and ceramic composites exhibit various advantages, such as lower flammability, and larger electrochemical and thermal stability. One challenge with traditional ceramics is the propagation of lithium dendrites, branchlike metal fibers that short-circuit battery cells. Penn State will create ceramic and ceramic/polymer composite electrolytes that resist dendrite growth by creating optimized microstructures via cold sintering. Sintering is the process of compacting and forming a solid mass by heat and/or pressure without melting it to the point of changing it to a liquid, similar to pressing a snowball together from loose snow. However, the high temperature required for traditional sintering of ceramics limits opportunities for integration in electrochemical systems and leads to high processing costs. Cold-sintering below 200°C changes the ability to control grain boundaries within ceramic materials, creates opportunities to tune interfaces, and opens the door for integration of different materials. It also allows large area co-processing of organic and inorganic materials in a one-step process, leading to savings in fabricating costs by eliminating the separate ceramic sintering steps and high-temperature processing.

Pennsylvania State University

A Multi-Purpose, Intelligent, and Reconfigurable Battery Pack Health Management System

Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) is developing an innovative, reconfigurable design for electric vehicle battery packs that can re-route power in real time between individual cells. Much like how most cars carry a spare tire in the event of a blowout, today's battery packs contain extra capacity to continue supplying power, managing current, and maintaining capacity as cells age and degrade. Some batteries carry more than 4 times the capacity needed to maintain operation, or the equivalent of mounting 16 tires on a vehicle in the event that one tire goes flat. This overdesign is expensive and inefficient. Penn State's design involves unique methods of electrical reconfigurability to enable the battery pack to switch out cells as they age and weaken. The system would also contain control hardware elements to monitor and manage power across cells, identify damaged cells, and signal the need to switch them out of the circuit.

Phononic Devices, Inc.

Advanced Semiconductor Materials for Thermoelectric Devices

Phononic Devices is working to recapture waste heat and convert it into usable electric power. To do this, the company is using thermoelectric devices, which are made from advanced semiconductor materials that convert heat into electricity or actively remove heat for refrigeration and cooling purposes. Thermoelectric devices resemble computer chips, and they manage heat by manipulating the direction of electrons at the nanoscale. These devices aren't new, but they are currently too inefficient and expensive for widespread use. Phononic Devices is using a high-performance, cost-effective thermoelectric design that will improve the device's efficiency and enable electronics manufacturers to more easily integrate them into their products.

PolyPlus Battery Company

A Revolutionary Approach to High-Energy Density, Low-Cost Lithium-Sulfur Batteries

PolyPlus Battery Company is developing an innovative, water-based Lithium-Sulfur (Li-S) battery. Today, Li-S battery technology offers the lightest high-energy batteries that are completely self-contained. New features in these water-based batteries make PolyPlus' lightweight battery ideal for a variety of military and consumer applications. The design could achieve energy densities between 400-600 Wh/kg, a substantial improvement from today's state-of-the-art Li-Ion batteries that can hold only 150 Wh/kg. PolyPlus' technology--with applications for vehicle transportation as well as grid storage--would be able to transition to a widespread commercial and military market.

PolyPlus Battery Company

Flexible Solid Electrolyte Protected Lithium Metal Electrodes for Next Generation Batteries

PolyPlus Battery Company, in collaboration with SCHOTT Glass, will develop flexible, solid-electrolyte-protected lithium metal electrodes made by the lamination of lithium metal foil to thin solid electrolyte membranes that are highly conductive. Past efforts to improve lithium cycling by moving to solid-state structures based on polycrystalline ceramics have found limited success due to initiation and propagation of dendrites, which are branchlike metal fibers that short-circuit battery cells. A major benefit of the PolyPlus concept is that the lithium electrode is bonded to a "nearly flawless" glass surface which is devoid of grain boundaries or sufficiently large surface defects through which dendrites can initiate and propagate. These thin and flexible solid electrolyte membranes will be laminated to lithium metal foils, which can then be used to replace the graphite electrode and separators in commercial Li-ion batteries. The team's approach is based on electrolyte films made by commercial melt processing techniques, and they will work in close cooperation to develop compositions and processes suitable for high-volume, low-cost production of the lithium/glass laminate. The SCHOTT team will focus on glass composition and its relationship to physical properties while the PolyPlus team will determine electrochemical properties of the glass and provide this information to SCHOTT to further refine the glass composition. PolyPlus will also develop the Li/glass lamination process and work with the SCHOTT team on manufacturing and scale-up using high volume roll-to-roll processing.

Primus Power

Low-Cost, High-Performance 50-Year Electrodes

Primus Power is developing zinc-based, rechargeable liquid flow batteries that could produce substantially more energy at lower cost than conventional batteries. A flow battery is similar to a conventional battery, except instead of storing its energy inside the cell it stores that energy for future use in chemicals that are kept in tanks that sit outside the cell. One of the most costly components in a flow battery is the electrode, where the electrochemical reactions actually occur. Primus Power is investigating and developing mixed-metal materials for their electrodes that could ultimately reduce the lifetime cost of flow batteries because they are more durable and long-lasting than electrodes found in traditional batteries. Using these electrodes, Primus Power's flow batteries can be grouped together into robust, containerized storage pods for use by utilities, renewable energy developers, businesses, and campuses.

Proton Energy Systems

Transformative Renewable Energy Storage Devices Based on Neutral Water Input

Proton Energy Systems is developing an energy storage device that converts water to hydrogen fuel when excess electricity is available, and then uses hydrogen to generate electricity when energy is needed. The system includes an electrolyzer, which generates and separates hydrogen and oxygen for storage, and a fuel cell which converts the hydrogen and oxygen back to electricity. Traditional systems use acidic membranes, and require expensive materials including platinum and titanium for key parts of the system. In contrast, Proton Energy Systems' new technology will use an inexpensive alkaline membrane and will contain only inexpensive metals such as nickel and stainless steel. If successful, Proton Energy Systems' design will have similar performance to today's regenerative fuel cell systems at a fraction of the cost, and can be used to store electricity on the electric grid.

Redox Power Systems, LLC

Low-Temperature Solid Oxide Fuel Cells for Transformational Energy Conversion

Redox Power Systems is developing a fuel cell with a mid-temperature operating target of 400°C while maintaining high power density and enabling faster cycling. Current fuel cell systems are expensive and bulky, which limits their commercialization and widespread adoption for distributed generation and other applications. Such state-of-the-art systems consist of fuel cells that either use a mixture of ceramic oxide materials that require high temperatures (~800°C) for grid-scale applications or are polymer-based technology with prohibitive low temperature operation for vehicle technologies. By combining advanced materials that have traditionally been unstable alone, Redox will create a new two-layer electrolyte configuration incorporating nano-enabled electrodes and stable ceramic anodes. The use of these materials will increase system power density and will have a startup time of less than 10 minutes, making them more responsive to demand. Redox is also developing a new fuel processor system optimized to work with their low-temperature solid oxide fuel cells. This new material configuration also allows the operating temperature to be reduced when incorporated into commercially fabricated fuel cells. These advances will enable Redox to produce a lower cost distributed generation product, as well as to enter new markets such as embedded power for datacenters.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Channeling Engineering of Hydroxide Ion Exchange Polymers and Reinforced Membranes

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) will develop hydroxide ion-conducting polymers that are chemically and mechanically stable for use in anion exchange membranes (AEM). Unlike PEMs, AEMs can be used in an alkaline environment and can use inexpensive, non-precious metal catalysts such as nickel. Simultaneously achieving high ion conductivity and mechanical stability has been a challenge because high ion exchange capacity causes swelling, which degrades the system's mechanical strength. To solve this problem, the team plans to decouple the structural units of the AEM that are responsible for ion conduction and mechanical properties, so that each can contribute to the overall properties of the AEM. The team will also use channel engineering to provide a direct path for ion transport, with minimal room for water, in order to achieve high ion conductivity with low swelling. If successful, the team hopes to create a pathway to the first commercial hydroxide ion exchange membrane products suitable for electrochemical energy conversion technologies.

Robert Bosch, LLC

Advanced Battery Management System

Robert Bosch is developing battery monitoring and control software to improve the capacity, safety, and charge rate of electric vehicle batteries. Conventional methods for preventing premature aging and failures in electric vehicle batteries involve expensive and heavy overdesign of the battery and tend to result in inefficient use of available battery capacity. Bosch would increase usable capacity and enhance charging rates by improving the ability to estimate battery health in real-time, to predict and manage the impact of charge and discharge cycles on battery health, and to minimize battery degradation.

SAFCell, Inc.

Solid Acid Fuel Cell Stack for Distributed Generation Applications

SAFCell is developing solid acid fuel cells (SAFCs) that operate at 250 °C and will be nearly free of precious metal catalysts. Current fuel cells either rely on ultra-pure hydrogen as a fuel and operate at low temperatures for vehicles technologies, or run on natural gas, but operate only at high temperatures for grid-scale applications. SAFCell's fuel cell is utilizing a new solid acid electrolyte material to operate efficiently at intermediate temperatures and on multiple fuels. Additionally, the team will dramatically lower system costs by reducing precious metals, such as platinum, from the electrodes and developing new catalysts based on carbon nanotubes and metal organic frameworks. The proposed SAFC stack design will lead to the creation of low cost fuel cells that can withstand common fuel impurities, making them ideal for distributed generation applications.

Sharp Laboratories of America

Low-Cost Sodium-Ion Battery to Enable Grid Scale Energy Storage: Prussian Blue-Derived Cathode and Complete Battery Integration

Sharp Laboratories of America and their partners at the University of Texas and Oregon State University are developing a sodium-based battery that could dramatically increase battery cycle life at a low cost while maintaining a high energy capacity. Current storage approaches use either massive pumped reservoirs of water or underground compressed air storage, which carry serious infrastructure requirements and are not feasible beyond specific site limitations. Therefore, there is a critical need for a scalable, adaptable battery technology to enable widespread deployment of renewable power. Sodium ion batteries have the potential to perform as well as today's best lithium-based designs at a significantly lower cost. Sharp Labs' new battery would provide long cycle life, high energy density, and safe operation if deployed throughout the electric grid.

SiEnergy Systems

Direct Hydrocarbon Fuel Cell - Battery Hybrid Electrochemical System

SiEnergy Systems is developing a hybrid electrochemical system that uses a multi-functional electrode to allow the cell to perform as both a fuel cell and a battery, a capability that does not exist today. A fuel cell can convert chemical energy stored in domestically abundant natural gas to electrical energy at high efficiency, but adoption of these technologies has been slow due to high cost and limited functionality. SiEnergy's design would expand the functional capability of a fuel cell to two modes: fuel cell mode and battery mode. In fuel cell mode, non-precious metal catalysts are integrated at the cell's anode to react directly with hydrocarbons such as the methane found in natural gas. In battery mode, the system will provide storage capability that offers faster response to changes in power demand compared to a standard fuel cell. SiEnergy's technology will operate at relatively low temperatures of 300-500ºC, which makes the system more durable than existing high-temperature fuel cells.

Sila Nanotechnologies, Inc.

Melt-Infiltration Solid Electrolyte Technology for Solid State Lithium Batteries

Sila Nanotechnologies will develop solid-state ceramic lithium batteries with high energy density. Traditional methods using ceramic electrolytes significantly reduces a battery's volumetric energy density because the materials are relatively bulky. Commercially produced separator membranes are also expensive and thick because of challenges in fabrication and handling of thinner, defect-free solid-state electrolyte membranes. In addition, such membranes are often air sensitive, have low ionic conductivity, and are susceptible to the growth of branchlike metal fibers called dendrites. Unimpeded, dendrites can grow to span the space between the negative and positive electrodes, causing short-circuiting. To overcome these limitations the team proposes a shift in solid-state battery technology: melt-infiltrating of a solid-state electrolyte at moderate temperatures into a porous separator-cathode stack. This reduces cell volume by nearly three times, while resulting in a corresponding increase in energy density and cost-reduction. The result is a product with low cost and high production yield, built on a process similar to conventional organic electrolyte-filling techniques. The equipment for this process will be very similar to what is currently used in Li-ion battery manufacturing, except that it will be slightly modified for operation at elevated temperatures of up to 250-400°C. The use of equipment similar to what is currently used by industry will reduce the risks of technology scale-up.

Southwest Research Institute

Novel SOC and SOH Estimation Through Sensor Technology

Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) is developing a battery management system to track the performance characteristics of lithium-ion batteries during charge and discharge cycles to help analyze battery capacity and health. No two battery cells are alike--they differ over their life-times in terms of charge and discharge rates, capacity, and temperature characteristics, among other things. In SwRI's design, a number of strain gauges would be strategically placed on the cells to monitor their state of charges and overall health during operation. This could help reduce the risk of batteries being over-charged and over-discharged. This novel sensing technique should allow the battery to operate within safe limits and prolong its cycle life. SwRI is working to develop complex algorithms and advanced circuitry to help demonstrate the potential of these sensing technologies at the battery-pack level.

Teledyne Scientific & Imaging, LLC

Potassium-Based Aqueous Flow Battery for Grid Application

Teledyne Scientific & Imaging is developing a water-based, potassium-ion flow battery for low-cost stationary energy storage. 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. Teledyne is increasing the energy and power density of their battery by 2-5 times compared to today's state-of-the-art vanadium flow battery. Their safe, scalable, low-cost energy storage technology would facilitate more widespread adoption and deployment of renewable energy technology.

The Boeing Company

Low-Cost, High-Energy-Density Flywheel Storage Grid Demonstration

The Boeing Company is developing a new material for use in the rotor of a low-cost, high-energy flywheel storage technology. Flywheels store energy by increasing the speed of an internal rotor--slowing the rotor releases the energy back to the grid when needed. The faster the rotor spins, the more energy it can store. Boeing's new material could drastically improve the energy stored in the rotor. The team will work to improve the storage capacity of their flywheels and increase the duration over which they store energy. The ultimate goal of this project is to create a flywheel system that can be scaled up for use by electric utility companies and produce power for a full hour at a cost of $100 per kilowatt hour.

TVN Systems, Inc.

Hydrogen-Bromine Electrical Energy Storage System

TVN Systems is developing an advanced hydrogen-bromine flow battery that incorporates a low-cost membrane and durable catalyst materials. A flow battery's membrane separates its active materials and keeps them from mixing, while the catalyst serves to speed up the chemical reactions that generate electricity. Today's hydrogen-bromine batteries use very expensive membrane material and catalysts that can degrade as the battery is used. TVN is exploring new catalysts that will last longer than today's catalysts, and developing new membranes at a fraction of the cost of today's membranes. Demonstrating long-lasting, cost-competitive storage systems could enable deployment of renewable energy technologies throughout the grid.

United Technologies Research Center

Transformative Electrochemical Flow Storage System (TEFSS)

United Technologies Research Center (UTRC) is developing a flow battery with a unique design that provides significantly more power than today's flow battery systems. A flow battery is a cross between a traditional battery and a fuel cell. Flow batteries store their energy in external tanks instead of inside the cell itself. Flow batteries have traditionally been expensive because the battery cell stack, where the chemical reaction takes place, is costly. In this project, UTRC is developing a new stack design that achieves 10 times higher power than today's flow batteries. This high power output means the size of the cell stack can be smaller, reducing the amount of expensive materials that are needed. UTRC's flow battery will reduce the cost of storing electricity for the electric grid, making widespread use feasible.

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