Empa researcher tests new materials for flow batteries


Dübendorf ZH – David Reber wants to develop a better type of non-toxic water-based flow battery at the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa). His vision of a storage medium for urban spaces is a hybrid of a flow battery and a lithium-ion battery.

Dr. David Reber is working on non-toxic and scalable water-based flow batteries in Empa ‘s Materials for the Energy Transition laboratory. These have been known since the 1970s. However, they never achieved a breakthrough because their storage density is around ten times lower than that of batteries made from solid storage materials. He wants to remedy this with clever material design. He will receive support for the next four years from an Ambizione grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation.

“With the increasing use of renewable energies, we will need energy storage on a large scale – even in urban areas,” Reber is quoted as saying in an Empa press release. While most flow battery projects focus on more soluble storage materials for their electrolyte tanks, he wants to completely decouple energy storage from the electrolyte solution: “My vision is to develop a kind of hybrid of a flow battery and a lithium-ion battery”.

To achieve this, he plans to add solid storage materials to the flow battery tank: “If the dissolved material and the solid storage material are precisely matched to each other, they can transfer energy between them. This allows the scalability of flow batteries to be combined with the high energy density of batteries with solid storage materials.” Reber already has some possible material pairs in mind. He was already researching chelate-based redox flow batteries during his postdoc at the University of Colorado in Boulder. In October, he received the prestigious Battery Division Postdoc Award at the annual meeting of the Electrochemical Society. ce/mm