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High-Power Zinc-Air Energy Storage

Fluidic Energy

Enhanced Metal-Air Energy Storage System with Advanced Grid-Interoperable Power Electronics Enabling Scalability and Ultra-Low Cost

Graphic of Fluidic's technology
Program: 
ARPA-E Award: 
$2,984,396
Location: 
Scottsdale, AZ
Project Term: 
10/01/2010 to 03/31/2013
Project Status: 
ALUMNI
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 present major challenges to delivery of the consistent power that is necessary to operate today's grid. The U.S. needs technologies that can 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: 

Fluidic Energy is developing a low-cost, rechargeable, high-power module for Zinc-air batteries that will be used to store renewable energy. Zinc-air batteries are traditionally found in small, non-rechargeable devices like hearing aids because they are well-suited to delivering low levels of power for long periods of time. Historically, Zinc-air batteries have not been as useful for applications which require periodic bursts of power, like on the electrical grid. Fluidic hopes to fill this need by combining the high energy, low cost, and long run-time of a Zinc-air battery with new chemistry providing high power, high efficiency, and fast response. The battery module could allow large grid-storage batteries to provide much more power on very short demand--the most costly kind of power for utilities--and with much more versatile performance.

Potential Impact: 

If successful, Fluidic's Zinc-air battery could last up to 5,000 charge and discharge cycles and would enable a grid-scale energy storage solution with the capacity to support the use of renewable power.

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.

Innovation Update: 
(As of May 2016) 
In partnership with Arizona State University (ASU), Fluidic Energy has overcome the challenges of degradation and limited charge cycles and developed a rechargeable Zinc-air (Zn-air) battery. Since its ARPA-E award, Fluidic has continued development of its commercial product and has raised approximately $150M in private sector funding. The company has established its first markets in cell phone tower backup systems for developing regions, where reliable power delivery is essential. Fluidic is now working to transition its technology to broader rural electrification and microgrid applications. As of January 2016, Fluidic has installed more than 50,000 Zn-air battery cells, primarily in South East Asia and Latin America, reducing customer’s operating costs while increasing reliability. In January 2016, Fluidic was recognized as one of the top 100 private firms positioned to solve tomorrow’s global clean technology challenges with a 2015 Global Cleantech award. 
 
In partnership with ASU, the Fluidic team developed a metal-air battery that overcomes traditional challenges such as being prone to degradation and typical historical inability to charge and recharge over a large number of cycles. The ASU-Fluidic team approached their battery design using an electrolyte based on ionic liquids, which are salts that are liquid at the battery operating temperature, delivering ionic conductance while maintaining substantial electrical insulation. The team developed chemistries that have negligible evaporation, are stable in the presence of oxygen, and do not absorb water over the cell operating voltages. A key challenge in optimizing the battery performance was developing stringent control of operating parameters, such as rates of charge/discharge and depth of discharge, at the level of individual cells and modules. Under ARPA-E support, Fluidic developed a prototype commercializable battery module, including the preliminary development of an advanced control system and integration of continuing improvements in the system of electrodes and electrolytes, targeting kW-level power applications with delivery over 4-72 hours.
 
For a detailed assessment of the Fluidic team's project and impact, please click here.


Contacts
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Eric Rohlfing
Project Contact: 
Dr. Cody Friesen
Partners
Satcon Technology Corporation
Release Date: 
7/12/2010