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New Lithium Flow Battery Could Provide Energy Storage for Wind, Solar Power

Stanford-developed battery does not require separating membrane and can be made from relatively inexpensive materials.

Researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University have designed a low-cost, long-life battery that could enable solar and wind energy to become major suppliers to the electrical grid.

“For solar and wind power to be used in a significant way, we need a battery made of economical materials that are easy to scale and still efficient,” says Yi Cui, a Stanford associate professor of materials science and engineering and a member of the Stanford Institute for Materials and Energy Sciences, a SLAC/Stanford joint institute. “We believe our new battery may be the best yet designed to regulate the natural fluctuations of these alternative energies.”

Cui and colleagues report their research results, some of the earliest supported by the DOE’s new Joint Center for Energy Storage Research battery hub, in the May issue of Energy & Environmental Science.

Currently the electrical grid cannot tolerate large and sudden power fluctuations caused by wide swings in sunlight and wind. As solar and wind’s combined contributions to an electrical grid approach 20%, energy storage systems must be available to smooth out the peaks and valleys of this “intermittent” power – storing excess energy and discharging when input drops.

Among the most promising batteries for intermittent grid storage today are “flow” batteries, because it’s relatively simple to scale their tanks, pumps and pipes to the sizes needed to handle large capacities of energy. The new flow battery developed by Cui’s group has a simplified, less expensive design that presents a potentially viable solution for large-scale production.



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