Over 800 million people worldwide currently live without access to electricity. For others, unreliable supplies of energy continue to affect quality of life and hinder economic development. Technologies capable of providing modularity, geographical flexibility and operational range in the storage of renewable energy can not only provide stable access to electricity, but potentially save up to 100 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year by replacing commonly used diesel and gasoline generators.
Operated by pumping electrolyte solutions from external storage tanks into electrochemical cells, redox flow batteries deliver energy over extended periods for a fraction of the cost of that provided by commercial lithium-ion batteries. However, existing electrolyte chemistries, based largely on heavy metals such as vanadium, face limitations of cost, toxicity, and, in some cases, geopolitical influence. In my project, I develop metal-free electrolytes for redox flow batteries inspired by molecules found in nature. These electrolytes are not only cheaper, safer and more sustainable than current commercial analogues, but are capable of advancing the deployment of energy storage technologies to communities where the need is greatest.
NanoDTC PhD Student, c2019