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ANSTO Collaborates to Advance Energy Storage

Image Credits: ANSTO, Press Release

ANSTO’s Australian Synchrotron has been awarded a research grant by the Australian Research Council Linkage Project to study an innovative stationary energy storage battery system.

The University of Queensland researchers, in collaboration with Energy Storage Industries Asia Pacific, are working on the development of water-based iron flow batteries. These batteries utilize a non-toxic iron chloride electrolyte and are designed to be rechargeable, making them well-suited for large-scale storage in grid systems.

Iron flow batteries present an opportunity for clean, dependable, and economical energy storage over extended periods. When discharging, the positive electrode of the battery undergoes a reduction reaction, converting iron (III) chloride into iron (II) chloride. Simultaneously, at the negative electrode, metallic iron dissolves into the electrolyte as iron (II) chloride. These processes are reversed when the battery is being charged.

Dr Bin Luo, an ARC Fellow and Group Leader at the Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (UQ), along with Prof. Ian Gentile from the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences (UQ) and Dr Masud Rana, a Research Fellow at UQ, will persist in their efforts to address a significant challenge hindering the widespread commercial use of iron flow batteries. This challenge pertains to a competitive side reaction that takes place at the negative electrode during battery charging, resulting in a lower round-trip energy efficiency.

Dr Qinfen Gu, the Principal Beamline Scientist, will contribute as a partner investigator in the project, providing valuable support in experimental design, development of operando set-up, flow battery testing, and data analysis. Dr Gu will leverage the capabilities of the Powder Diffraction beamline at the Australian Synchrotron to facilitate these aspects of the research. The utility of the powder diffraction beamline for investigating the influence of structural modifications on function.

Furthermore, the Australian Synchrotron provides an opportunity to evaluate the performance of novel materials on functional batteries. The facility offers extensive support for a wide range of battery research endeavours.

To tackle the issue of low energy efficiency in the system, the project will focus on enhancing battery performance and cost reduction by engineering functional materials at the negative electrode-electrolyte interface. By implementing this approach, the aim is to address the challenges associated with low energy efficiency and enhance the overall performance of the battery system.

The project has several objectives. Firstly, it aims to design iron electrodes that incorporate functional interface layers. Secondly, the researchers plan to showcase the iron flow battery technology through laboratory-scale demonstrations. Additionally, the project includes conducting pilot-scale tests of the technology to assess its suitability for commercial applications.

Lastly, the researchers seek to gain insights into the impact of the functional interface layer on the iron plating process and overall battery performance. These goals collectively contribute to advancing the understanding and development of the iron flow battery technology.

The team intends to utilise the funding from the linkage grant to develop new materials and methods in the field of advanced battery technology. By doing so, they aim to contribute to both Australian manufacturing capabilities and the national priority of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The project aligns with the broader goal of advancing sustainable energy solutions and supporting the transition towards a cleaner and more environmentally friendly energy landscape in Australia.

The collaborative efforts between ANSTO’s Australian Synchrotron, the University of Queensland, and industry partner Energy Storage Industries Asia Pacific are driving technological advancements in the field of energy storage.

By developing water-based iron flow batteries with functional interface layers, incorporating non-toxic iron chloride electrolytes, and leveraging cutting-edge research facilities like the Powder Diffraction beamline, the project aims to overcome challenges and improve energy efficiency.

This research has the potential to revolutionise stationary energy storage, contributing to the global goals of clean and sustainable energy systems while supporting Australia’s transition towards a net-zero carbon future.


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