High-energy and high-power Zn–Ni flow batteries with semi-solid electrodes†
Flow battery technology offers a promising low-cost option for stationary energy storage applications. Aqueous zinc–nickel battery chemistry is intrinsically safer than non-aqueous battery chemistry (e.g. lithium-based batteries) and offers comparable energy density. In this work, we show how combining high power density and low-yield stress electrodes can minimize energy loss due to pumping, and have demonstrate methods to achieve high energy and power density for ZnO/Ni(OH)2 electrodes by changing composition and optimizing testing protocols. Firstly, mechanically stable and homogeneous Ni(OH)2/carbon and ZnO/Zn flowable electrodes in 7 M KOH electrolyte were designed using a microgel dispersion as the suspending matrix. By determining the critical volume fractions for conductivity percolation, colloidal suspensions with 6.2 vol% of carbon and 23.1 vol% of Zn were selected for preparing catholytes and anolytes to ensure that these semi-solid electrodes possess high voltage and high coulombic efficiencies. The resulting flowable electrodes exhibited non-Newtonian rheology with a yield stress of approximately ∼200 Pa, which assists in maintaining mechanical stability of the suspensions. An energy density of up to 134 W h Lcatholyte−1 and power density up to ∼159 mW cmgeo.−2 was demonstrated for semi-solid ZnO/Ni(OH)2 electrodes, and coulombic efficiency of 94% was achieved during cycling by optimizing the charging protocol to 60% SOC of Ni(OH)2. Lastly, semi-solid ZnO and Ni(OH)2 flow cells were built and tested using an intermittent mode of operation. The high energy and power densities, high coulombic efficiency, and negligible pumping loss of the Zn–Ni semi-solid electrodes developed in the present work present a promising system for further development.