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Harvard battery aims to shrink wind energy storage costs

UNITED STATES: Harvard University has developed a new battery designed to store power generated by wind turbines for use at times of peak energy demand.

Chemicals in two tanks are pumped through the cell stack
Chemicals in two tanks are pumped through the cell stack

Producing storage for wind power is one of the key challenges for the wind industry, but so far large-scale use through batteries has proved too expensive.

A Harvard research team believes its new battery could prove economical in storing energy for up to two days on a large scale.

Costs are brought down by the absence of precious metal catalysts used in similar products like the vanadium flow battery.

Instead it relies on more affordable organic chemicals called quinones, which are found in high quantities in, among other things, rhubarb. But the developers claim that the new battery already performs as well as Vanadium batteries.

Flow batteries do not use solid-state electrodes as is the norm for standard batteries, but rather use two liquid electrolytes. The liquids are contained in separated tanks and flow through a cell stack, allowing the ions and electrons to move through a porous membrane in order to discharge and recharge the battery.

Since the amount of chemicals held in the tanks determines how much energy can be stored, their cost is key to bringing down price.

Vanadium batteries typically costs about $80 per kWh, says leader of the research professor Michael Aziz. But he believes that quinone-based systems could cut the energy storage costs down to just $27 per kWh.

In the current small-scale battery that the team has developed, only the negative side of the battery uses quinones, with the positive side using bromine. The researchers are now working on a new version that solely uses quinones.

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