Invented 40 years ago, this technology is cheap to store energy and is coming back to the fore

To combat global warming and its effects, we are increasingly dependent on renewable energy. Solar, wind or tidal turbines are all concepts that can be used to meet our energy needs. However, to be effective, these technologies require the use of batteries. However, the existing accumulators are far from ecological, as, for example, lithium batteries, which use scarce resources and are therefore expensive. In addition, they are dangerous given their rather high risk of explosion. Hoping to change the game, researchers are working hard to develop safer and environmentally friendly batteries. Vanadium-based models could help achieve just that.

A complete system

In fact, vanadium redox batteries are not really new. The concept first appeared in Australia in the 1980s. These devices, also known as “flow batteries”, have the specificity that they are particularly impressive. They are a full-fledged system that includes huge tanks and pipes for transporting the electrolyte. According to the explanations of Maria Skyllas-Kazacosthe expert to whom we owe the invention of this type of battery, flow batteries combine safety, longevity and lower costs.

A reactor and a tank

On his side, Alexey Glushenkovan associate professor at the Australian National University, suggested that “most of the batteries we use are closed systems”. In conventional accumulators, the components necessary for power production are stored in a single unit. This operation is known as reduction-oxidation or redox reaction. Vanadium redox batteries use the same principle, although they are physically more complex. They consist of two main elements: a reactor which contains an anode and a cathode as well as a tank to contain the electrolyte.

Functional Principle
Functional principle. By Madeba — Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22789291

Extended lifespan

“You pump the two liquids through the reactor and their oxidation state changes when they come into contact with the electrodes”, Glushenkov explained. It is through this mechanism that the battery generates electricity.

Diagram Of A Vanadium Redox Battery
Diagram of a vanadium redox battery. By Paj.meister — Newscientist, Public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1559479

Also according to our source, batteries can be charged and discharged by pumping electrolytes back and forth. As mentioned above, one of the main advantages of redox vanadium batteries is their longevity. While lithium cells have a lifespan of 15 to 20 years, these flow batteries can last up to 30 years! More information: nhcleanenergy.com

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