PARIS – Researchers at Harvard University said they will receive grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop commercially practical flow batteries to store solar and wind power.
A team of engineers and chemists at Harvard University said they have won a one-year, $600,000 innovation grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E) program to develop a flow battery, a technology that offers the promises of a cost-effective, grid-scale electrical energy storage based on eco-friendly small organic molecules.
“Storage of very large amounts of energy is required if we are to generate a major portion of our electricity from intermittent renewable sources such as wind turbines and photovoltaics,” stated lead investigator Michael Aziz, professor of materials and energy technologies at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
Aziz continued: “Currently no cost-effective solution exists to this large-scale storage problem. Flow batteries may make stationary storage viable in the marketplace, and that will enable wind and solar to displace a lot more fossil fuel.”
Aziz, an expert in materials science and a developer of high-performance flow cells, said he thinks that using a particular class of small organic molecules could be the solution. These molecules are found in plants and can be synthesized artificially for very low cost. They are non-toxic and can be stored at room temperature.
As part of the research program, Aziz said he will work on molecular and electrode electrochemistry and flow cell development. In parallel, Roy Gordon, Thomas Dudley Cabot, professor of chemistry and professor of materials science, will be responsible for the chemical screening and synthesis of molecules and of practical electrocatalytic and protective coatings. Then, Alán Aspuru-Guzik, an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, will use his pioneering high-throughput molecular screening methods to identify optimal molecules. Finally, Trent M. Molter, president and CEO of Sustainable Innovations, LLC, will be in charge of implementing these innovations into commercial electrochemical systems.
Eventually, researchers said they expect to develop flow batteries for local energy storage, such as in the basement of a house or office outfitted with rooftop solar panels or, at a larger scale, directly integrated into wind and solar farms.
Looking further ahead, they claimed that the technology could out-compete lead-acid batteries for solar energy storage in remote areas without access to a grid.
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