Electrochemical devices make it possible to store electrical energy generated from carbon-free sources, such as wind and solar power, for use at a later time. They also provide a direct path to convert chemical energy stored in materials like natural gas, hydrogen, and battery components into electricity. These capabilities are complemented by the additional benefits of high energy efficiency and scalability, making electrochemical cells suitable for small, distributable and large, centralized uses.
IONICS will focus on three main applications for ion conductors: energy storage for the transportation sector, energy storage for the electrical grid, and fuel cells for stationary power or transportation. The mass-market battery technologies used for transportation today employ liquid electrolytes due to their high conductivity, good wetting properties, and ease of device integration. Flow batteries, which offer the potential of low cost for storage times exceeding about five hours, have used an electrolyte optimized for other technologies without the full set of desired properties. And fuel cells built with alkaline liquid electrolytes have shown promise to eliminate scarce, expensive catalysts but degrade in the presence of carbon dioxide. A number of the challenges that have prevented wider deployment of these batteries and fuel cells can be addressed by developing a new generation of components built with solid ion conductors.