A Massachusetts startup has become the third company to license battery technology developed at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory that could make wind and solar power more practical.
It's the final license Battelle, which manages the national laboratory in Richland, plans to sign to help assure the success of the three companies working to commercialize the technology.
WattJoule Corp. of Massachusetts will combine its proprietary technology with the advanced battery technology developed at PNNL. UniEnergy Technologies of Mulkiteo and an undisclosed company also have licensing agreements.
Researchers at the national lab have developed a way to improve the redox flow battery.
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The battery was developed in the 1970s, but it had drawbacks that have made the technology impractical for storing wind and solar power. It only works if temperatures are kept between 50 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
To regulate the temperature, air conditioners or circulating cool water is needed, which uses up to 20 percent of the energy and significantly increases operating costs.
The redox flow batteries are proposed for storing power that can only be produced when nature cooperates, such as the wind blowing or the sun shining, rather than in a reliable, consistent stream.
"The technology can help balance supply and demand, prevent disruptions and meet the grid's varying load requirements," said Imre Gyuk, energy storage program manager at the Department of Energy's Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability, in a statement.
PNNL researchers, after testing different chemicals, discovered that adding hydrochloric acid to the sulfuric acid typically used in a particular type of redox flow batteries allowed them to operate in a greater temperature range, from 23 to 122 degrees. That greatly reduces the need for costly cooling systems to keep the batteries from overheating.
The new chemical mix also helps solve another drawback of redox flow batteries, a low energy density. It gives the batteries a 70 percent greater capacity to generate electricity, potentially reducing the size of the batteries, according to PNNL.
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