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Redox Batteries Targeting Electricity Instability

The recent growth in popularity of renewable energy sources has had many an effect on consumers, the economy and all the middle men in between.

In particular, the stability of the national grids has suffered negatively, as the lack of regularity, and subsequently reliability, has put a higher strain on the grids’ management system. For example, in our article published a few weeks ago, we outline the findings from the US Department of Energy’s 2017 study; these concluded that to some extent, green energy can even be harmful.

However, the lack of regularity has its benefits, too. One such benefit is the innovation it subsequently creates as researchers try and solve the problem through technologies such as energy storage solutions. One popular solution is a redox flow battery. Redox, short for reduction-oxidation reaction, creates a flow of electrolyte solutions through the electrochemical cells during charge and discharge, and could now be the answer to efforts in stabilising green energy.

Coming from Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany, this initiative is led by researchers using lignin – a waste product from the wood pulp production process – as their raw material. Naturally, it maintains stability in plants and wood, which is the reasoning behind introducing it into batteries, where it would perform the same action through electrosynthesis. This lignin would serve to replace previously used vanadium, which is more expensive and less abundant in nature.

“By subjecting the waste sludge from paper and pulp production to electrochemical decomposition we can obtain quinones, which we can then further process so they are suitable for use in organic batteries,” explains Siegfried Waldvogel, professor of organic chemistry and head of the research team.

At the moment, the lignin redox batteries are under development, with over 4 million Euros from a number of sources, including the German Federal Ministry of Agriculture. The study is currently funded until January 2019, but the team expects results sooner than this.

As big fans of batteries and new energy storage solutions in general, Dashboard is very excited about the research being conducted by Waldvogel’s team. By converting lignin into a redox battery capable of regulating the release of energy from renewable sources, a current challenge is being addressed, which could lead to a less challenging future for green energy.