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Sugar-Based Flow Battery Could Accelerate The Energy Transition

A next-generation flow battery design using a dissolved simple sugar has shown great promise in boosting the capacity and longevity of battery energy storage, which, if scaled, could revolutionize electrical grid energy storage.

The flow battery maintained its capacity to store and release energy for more than a year of continuous charge and discharge, according to an experiment conducted by a research team from the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

The sugar additive showed a surprise promising role as it was found to have boosted flow battery capacity and longevity for this grid energy resilience design, the researchers wrote in a study published in the Joule journal.

The experiment described the first use of a dissolved simple sugar called β-cyclodextrin, a derivative of starch, to boost battery longevity and capacity.

In the experiments that lasted for more than a year, the scientists optimized the ratio of chemicals in the system until it achieved 60% more peak power.

“During all that time, the flow battery barely lost any of its activity to recharge. This is the first laboratory-scale flow battery experiment to report more than a year of continuous use with minimal loss of capacity,” PNNL said.

While experimenting with other chemicals for flow batteries, the researchers found that β-cyclodextrin has “this surprising catalytic ability,” said Ruozhu Feng, the first author of the new study.

This new advance makes the battery design a candidate for scale up, the researchers say.

Currently, flow battery designs rely on mined minerals, which are expensive, unsustainable to mine, and/or controlled by few countries in the world. That’s why researchers, including at PNNL, are seeking “effective alternative technologies that use more common materials that are easily synthesized, stable and non-toxic,” the laboratory said.

Wei Wang, a long-time PNNL battery researcher and the principal investigator of the study, commented, “We showed that you can use a totally different type of catalyst designed to accelerate the energy conversion.”


“We cannot always dig the Earth for new materials,” Imre Gyuk, director of energy storage research at DOE’s Office of Electricity, said in a statement.

“We need to develop a sustainable approach with chemicals that we can synthesize in large amounts—just like the pharmaceutical and the food industries.”

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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  • DoRight Deikins on July 11 2023 said:
    Wow, do you think plants are into something? They've been storing energy in the form of sugars for, like years!

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