Date:Apr 30, 2018

An organic molecule used in dyes and antibiotics may be the key to less expensive, more efficient redox flow batteries. Scientists at PNNL developed a highly reversible, water-soluble material based on phenazine.
An organic molecule used in dyes and antibiotics may be the key to less expensive, more efficient redox flow batteries. Scientists at PNNL developed a highly reversible, water-soluble material based on phenazine. Andrea Starr Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory are working to invent new battery technologies across these applications. They are drawing upon their expertise in chemistry and materials sciences to develop batteries that will be less expensive and last longer, with increased reliability and safety. These researchers are international leaders in their field, publishing more than 400 peer-reviewed papers and receiving 45 U.S. patents during the past decade.

PNNL researchers and their collaborators use some of the most advanced microscopy in the world to guide their investigations. For example, they used Transmission Electron Microscopy to peer inside a battery during the charging cycle to study how defects form on the electrode. This work shed light on why batteries short (which can cause a fire) or fail to keep a charge after repeated use. As a result, researchers developed new materials that yield batteries that perform much better.

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Researcher Huilin Pan uses a glovebox in the Materials Development Laboratories to assemble a lithium-sulfur coin cell battery. Lithium-sulfur batteries hold two times the energy of batteries on store shelves, but their charge is often short lived. PNNL has developed solutions to protect the anode and stabilize the cathode, and is working to bring them to real-world applications.
Andrea Starr Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

In the area of grid-scale energy storage, PNNL has long been an innovation leader. Unlike consumer applications, where one is willing to pay a premium for a small, power-packed battery, here the emphasis is on cost and longevity. In earlier research, we demonstrated the utility of the element vanadium in redox flow batteries and spun out a company to commercialize the technology. This company, UniEnergy, now employs more than 60 people and sells its products around the world.

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