Designing high energy density flow batteries by tuning active-material thermodynamics†
The cost of electricity generated by wind and solar installations has become competitive with that generated by burning fossil fuels. While this paves the way for a carbon-neutral electrical grid, short- and long-term intermittency necessitates energy storage. Flow batteries are a promising technology to accommodate this need, with numerous advantages, including decoupled power and energy ratings, which imparts flexibility, thermal stability, and safety. Further, development of robust nonaqueous systems has the potential to greatly improve energy density, approaching that of lithium-ion batteries, while maintaining the advantages of flow systems. Herein we report a breakthrough on a bio-inspired nonaqueous redox flow battery (NRFB) electrolyte, which contains high-concentration active-material and maintains stability during deep cycling for extended time-periods. These advances are reinforced by thermodynamic considerations and computational investigations, which provide a clear path to further improvements. Electrochemical studies confirm that the active-material maintains its high stability at high concentration. This molecular scaffold clears two important hurdles in designing active-materials for nonaqueous electrolytes – low solubility and poor stability – providing an in-road to development of high-performance NRFB systems.