AquaPIM Membrane Technology Can Make Flow Batteries More Affordable

Flow batteries could one day provide the long term storage of electricity needed to make renewable energy commercially viable everywhere. They have the potential to cost less than lithium-ion batteries and avoid some of the pitfalls associated with lithium-ion, such as fires and explosions.

The membrane is the secret to making the whole thing both economical and durable. Most flow batteries today use flourinated membranes which are expensive — up to 20% of the total cost of a battery.

Cheaper membranes simply don’t stand up very long to the highly alkaline environment found inside a typical flow battery.

Brett Helms (staff scientist, right) and Miranda Baran (graduate student researcher) of Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry

Scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab say they have developed a versatile yet affordable battery membrane from a class of polymers known as AquaPIMs.

These polymers make inexpensive and long lasting grid batteries possible based solely on abundant materials such as zinc, iron, and water.

AquaPIM membranes work with different battery chemistries, from metals and inorganics to organics and polymers, and they help create stable cells which last far longer before degrading.

The team also developed a simple computer modeling technique that shows how different battery membranes impact the life expectancy or a flow battery.

That tool should accelerate early stage R&D for flow-battery technologies, particularly in the search for a suitable membrane for different battery chemistries.

AquaPIM membrane technology is well-positioned to accelerate the path to market for flow batteries that use scalable, low-cost, water-based chemistries.

Reference- Clean Technica, Joule Journal