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New Battery Could Enable Cheaper Energy Storage

New Battery Could Enable Cheaper Energy Storage

Image source: web.mit.edu/press

A new type of rechargeable flow battery engineered by MIT researchers, which doesn’t require costly membranes in order to store and generate electricity, may prove to be a key component in developing cost-effective large scale energy storage.

The lack of affordable and efficient methods for storing both solar and wind energy during peak generation times, in order to later release it during periods of high demand, has often been touted as one of the stumbling blocks to further renewable energy penetration. But if the new rechargeable flow battery developed at MIT can be further refined and scaled up, it could be a contender for a cheaper energy storage device on the scale needed by those renewable energy producers.

The new membrane-less battery prototype is small (“palm-sized”) but quite powerful, when compared to other similar systems, and is said to have a power density a full order of magnitude higher than many other energy storage systems.

“This technology has as much promise as anything else being explored for storage, if not more. Contrary to previous opinions that membraneless systems are purely academic, this system could potentially have a large practical impact.” – Cullen Buie, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at MIT

The battery designed by the researchers is described as a “hydrogen bromine laminar flow battery”, and one which omits the most costly, and usually the most unreliable, component of other flow batteries, the membrane.

“The device stores and releases energy in a device that relies on a phenomenon called laminar flow: Two liquids are pumped through a channel, undergoing electrochemical reactions between two electrodes to store or release energy. Under the right conditions, the solutions stream through in parallel, with very little mixing. The flow naturally separates the liquids, without requiring a costly membrane.” – MIT

Estimates at the potential cost for these new batteries, were they to go into production, is said to be as little as $100 per kilowatt-hour, according to the team, at which point they may be a viable choice for grid-scale storage.

The study is published at Nature Communications: Membrane-less hydrogen bromine flow battery

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