Fraunhofer Announces “Breakthrough” in Energy Storage - Large Redox-Flow BatteryMarch 18, 2013 by Jeff Shepard
Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology UMSICHT in Oberhausen, Germany, have succeeded in significantly increasing the size of the stack of a redox-flow battery and, with it, its capacity. A new design has allowed them to produce stacks up to 0.5 square meters in size. This is eight times larger than the cells in previous systems, and results in power up to 25 kW. The prototype has an efficiency of up to 80 percent, and can take a load of up to 500 amps of current.
So how have the experts managed to increase the size and capacity so remarkably? Scientists began by testing new membrane materials and researching battery management and battery design. Flow simulations helped them to optimize the cell structure. A complete redesign of the battery followed which enabled the Fraunhofer team to make their breakthrough. â€œThe biggest challenge we faced for producing batteries with this level of performance was the development of a completely new stack structure and the scale-up,â€ explains Dr. Jens Burfeind, Group Manager for Electrochemical Storage Systems at Fraunhofer UMSICHT.
UMSICHT experts are working together with colleagues from the Fraunhofer Institutes for Chemical Technology ICT and for Solar Energy Systems ISE to conduct intensive research into redox flow batteries as part of a project funded by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU). The research work is carried out at the institute in Oberhausen, home to one of Europeâ€™s largest test laboratories for redox flow batteries. â€œSuccessfully redesigning the battery stacks was an important step in developing redox flow batteries that could, for example, supply 2000 households with electricity,â€ says Dr. Christian DÃ¶tsch Division Director Energy at Fraunhofer UMSICHT. This would require a capacity of around two megawatts, so the next fixed objective is to develop a stack that is two square meters in size and has a capacity of 100 kW.
Redox flow batteries offer an effective way to balance out fluctuations in the supply of renewable energy and thus guarantee its constant availability. The batteries store electrical energy in chemical compounds, the liquid electrolytes. The electrolytes are charged and discharged in small reaction chambers. Several of these cells are lined up in stacks. However, the batteries that are currently available on the market, which are roughly the size of A4 paper (1/16 square meters), can only generate 2.3 kilowatts (kW) of power.
Sun and wind are important sources of energy. Almost a quarter of the electricity used in Germany is derived from renewable sources. The German Federal Government has set itself the objective of generating total electricity the country needs from sun, wind, biomass, by 2050. For the â€œEnergiewendeâ€ to be a success, however, increasing amounts of solar and wind energy have to be stored for use during the night, or for times when there is less wind.