Institute unveils efficient redox flow battery

Fri, 10/09/2009 - 10:09am
Jason Lomberg, Technical Editor

Jason-125The Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology (ICT) has developed a redox flow battery that could become the gold standard in Advanced Technology Vehicles.

There’s nothing revolutionary about the concept of redox flow batteries. Green Design + Manufacturing explains them thusly: “Two fluid electrolytes containing metal ions flow through porous graphite felt electrodes, separated by a membrane, which allows protons to pass through it. During this exchange of charge a current flows over the electrodes, which can be used by a battery-powered device.”  Similar to filling up a gas tank, flow batteries can be “recharged” by replacing the electrolyte fluid.

Until now, the main disadvantage of flow batteries was their capacity. Flow batteries store about one-quarter the energy of lithium ion. Less energy=substantially-reduced vehicle range. But an engineer with ICT, Jens Noack, claims they’ve solved this problem. “We can now increase the mileage four or fivefold, to approximately that of lithium-ion batteries,” says Noack.

These claims need independent verification, of course. But if true, they signal a great breakthrough in renewable energy. Refilling an oil-like fluid is a more realistic solution than installing a nation-wide system of recharging stations.





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