Dr. David Reber is working on non-toxic and scalable water-based flow batteries in Empa's Materials for Energy Conversion laboratory in the canton of Zurich. These were discovered in the 1970s, but they have never achieved a breakthrough because their storage density is around ten times lower than batteries made of solid storage materials. He wants to remedy this with clever materials design and will receive support for the next four years from an Ambizione grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation.
"As we use more renewable energy, we will need energy storage on a large scale – even in urban areas," Reber explains in an Empa statement. While most projects on flow batteries focus on better solubility of the storage materials, he wants to completely decouple energy storage from the electrolyte solution. “My vision is to develop a hybrid of sorts of a flow battery and a lithium-ion battery,” he says.
To do this, Reber plans to add solid storage materials to the flow battery's tank. "If the dissolved material and the solid storage material are precisely matched, they can transfer energy between each other," Reber adds. "This allows the scalability of flow batteries to be combined with the high energy density of batteries with solid storage materials." Reber already has some suitable material pairs in mind. During his postdoctoral studies at the University of Colorado in Boulder, he researched chelate-based redox flow batteries. He received the prestigious Battery Division Postdoc Award for his work at the annual meeting of the Electrochemical Society in October. ce/mm