Giant futuristic batteries to power 2,000 households

Giant futuristic batteries to power 2,000 households

Summary: Redox flow battery technology could store enough green energy to power 2,000 households in 5 years.

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TOPICS: Telcos, Hardware
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Renewable energy like solar and wind may help to save the planet, but a key challenge is storing the power they generate for dark or low-wind periods.

One approach for large-scale energy storage systems are redox flow batteries, which are basically large tanks with flowing electrolytes.

Researchers from several Fraunhofer Institutes are working jointly to develop these scalable fluid batteries with a goal of one day building a handball-court-sized battery installation with a capacity of 20 MWh – enough energy to provide power to roughly 2,000 households through a long winter's night or an overcast day.

They still have a long way to go. Currently, they have a working demo based on a 2-kW plant that is on display at the Hannover Messe conference this week. A 20-kW plant is scheduled to go into operation at the end of next year and the researchers hope to cross the megawatt threshold in roughly five years.

“The process already works reliably,” said Dr. Christian Dötsch in a news release. Dötsch is a business unit manager for Energy Efficiency Technologies at UMSICHT, one of the participating institutes. “The challenge lies in the upscale version, the enlargement of these plants.”

Credit: Fraunhofer

Above is a schematic of a redox-flow cell from a related article detailing the technology. The energy storage units operate in conjunction with an electrolyte tank for each of the two electrodes. The liquid electrolytes (e.g., vanadium) contain metal ions that flow through electrodes made of porous graphite fleece, separated by a membrane which is proton-permeable. During this exchange of charge a current flows over the electrodes which can be utilized.

The battery can provide unlimited capacity simply by using larger and larger storage tanks, and it can be left completely discharged for long periods with no ill effects. And because both electrolytes contain the same materials they do not contaminate the cells and the tanks if the electrolytes become mixed. They only need to differ in terms of ion charge or oxidation stage.

“This makes it possible to build very robust and durable batteries – a decisive advantage of this battery technology,” emphasizes Fraunhofer's Dr. Tom Smolinka.

On the downside, redox flow battery technology has relatively poor energy-to-volume ratio, and the system is more complex than standard storage batteries. For instance, insuring that the vanadium fluid flows smoothly through the large membranes and past the felt-like carbon electrodes in the cells themselves is a challenge, according to the researchers.

Fraunhofer researchers are convinced that the advantages of redox flow batteries will drive development, and in the next five years larger demo systems will be built and quickly followed by commercial redox-flow batteries.

Eventually, the focus will move on to the development of redox-flow batteries as a feasible technology for electric cars.

Topics: Telcos, Hardware

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22 comments
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  • Why not arsenic?

    Why does saving the planet always seem to involve introducing substances like Mercury and Vanadium into homes and residential areas? It's as if painting the word 'green' on a drum of arsenic makes people think we should bring it home.
    Robert Hahn
    • RE: Giant futuristic batteries to power 2,000 households

      @Robert Hahn
      what makes you think that "saving the planet" isn't just another marketing slogan?
      CaptOska
  • Pumps

    I see two pumps in the schematic; what powers these pumps?
    davidr69
    • RE: Giant futuristic batteries to power 2,000 households

      @davidr69
      Highly refined unobtainium.
      fairportfan
    • RE: Giant futuristic batteries to power 2,000 households

      @davidr69

      mules.
      CaptOska
    • what powers the pumps

      very likely, the batteries themselves power the pumps.
      bookman413
    • RE: Giant futuristic batteries to power 2,000 households

      @davidr69 Giant futuristic batteries to power is great to use in every field of working...I think you more produce more things in future.
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      astonatkin
  • RE: Giant futuristic batteries to power 2,000 households

    Is this classified as a battery? what power source do they use to CHARGE it up?
    PhanVan@...
    • Rainbows from West Virginia

      @PhanVan@... Renewable biomass unicorn poo. Well, either that or coal.
      Robert Hahn
    • RE: Giant futuristic batteries to power 2,000 households

      @PhanVan@...
      per the article, solar or wind
      CaptOska
    • RE: Giant futuristic batteries to power 2,000 households

      @PhanVan@... Dude i have same question... But i appreciate chris because he raise such a nice topic... Great stuff here... Keep it up... <a href="http://www.allwritingsource.co.uk/">Professional Writing Services UK</a> || <a href="http://www.allwritingsource.co.uk/essay-writing-service.php">Essay Writing Service</a> || <a href="http://www.allwritingsource.co.uk/graduation-thesis-dissertation.php">Dissertation Help</a>
      adokadrik
  • RE: Giant futuristic batteries to power 2,000 households

    they plan to use wind and solar to charge the units and use the stored energy at night or on windless days. Great idea if they can make it happen and not use toxic chemicals because as you know a car or truck is destine to hit one of thee units if they are in our neighborhoods
    surfnschultz@...
    • RE: Giant futuristic batteries to power 2,000 households

      @surfnschultz@... Dude you explained it very nice... I listened about this battery it is very useful for us... Secondly chris i appreciate you... You raised such a nice topic and explained it great... When i read this article i clearify most points... Thanks and great job... Keep it up... <a href="http://www.allwritingsource.co.uk/essay-writing-service.php">Essay Writing Service</a> || <a href="http://www.allwritingsource.co.uk/write-my-essay.php">Write My Essay</a> || <a href="http://www.allwritingsource.co.uk/essay-help.php">Essay Help</a>
      adokadrik
  • RE: Giant futuristic batteries to power 2,000 households

    Why not just store the extra energy as hydrolyzed water ( hydrogen - oxygen ) and then convert it back to electricity thru fuel cells at nite ?
    Proven technology, simple, easy to build with all of the unemployed factory workers having already compatible skills.
    IAFarm2
    • RE: Giant futuristic batteries to power 2,000 households

      @IAFarm2

      Not impossible. But storing H2 gas is tricky. It's a tiny molecule that tends to leak past seals.

      And stored in a steel tank, the hydrogen will seep into the steel, making it brittle.

      So it needs a low-pressure, non-metallic tank. Compressing it much at all wastes energy you can't get back.

      But some progress has been made storing H2 gas in metallic nanofoam structures. The sheer amount of surface area holds the hydrogen at room pressure and temperature.

      When you want the hydrogen out, you apply a little electric current to warm the nanofoam and the H2 comes loose.

      And the other problem is that electrolyzing water is kind of inefficient.

      Turns out a Cobalt Catalyst helps; that research was paid for by the Stimulus Program, BTW.

      The single best way of storing energy is to pump water uphill, and then let it flow through a turbine when you want the energy back.
      Jkirk3279
    • Or better yet, we can just burn some coal

      whose primary combustion byproducts, water vapor and carbon dioxide are essential for plant life.
      fr_gough
      • RE: Giant futuristic batteries to power 2,000 households

        but wich would push the CO2 concentration of the atmosphere past survivable limits for our ecosystem Other than that, great idea.
        bookman413
    • RE: Giant futuristic batteries to power 2,000 households

      Good idea, except that hydrogen is both incredibly difficult to store (due to its extremely small atomic size) and highly, highly explosive. Beyond that issue, fuel cells themselves require rare earth materials that are in short supply.
      bookman413
  • RE: Giant futuristic batteries to power 2,000 households

    And yet th other by-product( sulpher dioxde) tend to acidify soils and kills the trees which would use the other. All technologies have their respective downsides. It is the benefit which must be weighed with the potential detriment. There are many methods of saving energy through not using that energy which have very few downsides. A multiple front approach must be attempted to make any meaningful progress.
    marty33604
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