Scientists explore various chemistries to introduce more efficient and profitable means of storing energy

With the growing popularity of renewable energy comes the growing demand for energy storage that can satisfy both economic and customer needs. Scientists are exploring various chemistries like molten metal elements, salt-water, iron flow, zinc etc. as a source to come up with novel batteries and new storage technologies to address those needs.

According to Eric Rohlfing, deputy director of technology for ARPA-E, ‘high cost is a big problem’. In order to be economically feasible, utilities have to provide grid-level energy storage that would cost them less than $100 per kW-hour. Currently, that rate is far from it. However, researchers are trying their best to reach that target and introduce the most efficient, reliable and profitable means of storing energy that the grid demands.

There are some examples of successful clean energy storage technologies that could inspire other market players.

Aquion is one such example with its 35-megawatt-hour salt-water storage battery deployed worldwide in 250 installations. According to Matt Maroon, Aquion’s vice president of product management, the battery has simple chemistry, is very easy to install and the materials are easily obtained. A battery-plus-solar system installation in Hawaii provided electricity to several buildings for months without ever resorting to a diesel generator.

A company called Ambri, is contributing to energy storage by its innovative technology based on purified molten aluminum metal cells. A prototype has been running successfully for almost four years without showing any signs of wear and tear. 

Researchers from Harvard University are experimenting with a storage system that uses organic molecules known as quinones, while a team of researchers from Utah-Michigan Universities developed a charge-storing molecule that is about 1,000 times more stable than current redox flow compounds.

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