Using green chemistry, researchers at the Institute of Bioproducts and Paper Technology at Graz University of Technology in Austria, successfully made flow batteries more sustainable by replacing the heavy metals or rare earths in the liquid electrolyte with vanillin, a flavor compound obtained easily and cheaply from lignin. Lignin is produced as a waste byproduct in large quantities in paper production.
Redox flow technology enables storage of large amounts of energy and will be an important technology of back up battery storage for the energy grid. While lithium ion batteries are used for over 90 percent of utility-scale renewable energy battery storage in the US currently (EIA), the advantages of redox flow batteries from being less toxic and more scalable and recyclable to having higher life expectancy and low self-discharge, should help revolutionize the clean energy transformation. The researchers are in the process of scaling up the technology with a paper manufacturer and energy supply companies. tugraz