Novel battery membrane technology can optimize renewable energy storage

A group of researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have formulated a battery membrane technology that can help optimize the storage of renewable energy. The team devised the cost-effective battery membrane with the help of a class of polymers known as AquaPIMs, which facilitate the development of long-lasting and cost-efficient grid batteries based on readily available materials like iron, water, and zinc. The team also built a simple model demonstrating the effect of different battery membranes on the lifespan of the battery. Their study is expected to expedite research and development for flow-battery technologies, especially to find an appropriate membrane for diverse battery chemistries.

Brett Helms, a principal investigator in the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR), a staff scientist at Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry, and the lead of the study says that the AquaPIM membrane technology is well-positioned to expedite the commercialization of flow batteries that use scalable, affordable, and aquatic chemistries. Helms believes that with their technology and the associated empirical models for battery performance and lifespan, other researchers will be able to swiftly measure the readiness of each component that goes into the battery, from the membrane to the charge-storing materials. This is expected to conserve time and resources for both the researchers and product developers. Helms, along with co-authors, devised the AquaPIM technology, an acronym for ‘aqueous-compatible polymers of intrinsic microporosity,’ while they were working on developing polymer membranes for aqueous alkaline systems in collaboration with co-author Yet-Ming Chiang, a principal investigator in JCESR and Kyocera Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

In the following stages of the research, the researchers shall apply the novel membranes across a broader range of aqueous flow battery chemistries, right from inorganics and metals to organics and polymers. They are also speculating that the membranes can be used with other aqueous alkaline zinc batteries, along with batteries that utilize manganese oxide, oxygen, or metal-organic frameworks for a cathode.

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