for the grid, vehicles,
and sensor applications
for the grid, vehicles,
and sensor applications
For electric vehicles, the grid, and applications such as sensors, industry seeks lower-cost, higher-performance batteries with greater reliability and safety than those in today’s market. To help address this need, PNNL is playing a key role in developing new materials and processes that are resulting in improvements to lithium-ion and lithium-metal batteries, redox flow batteries, and other battery chemistries.
PNNL’s long-time energy storage research and development support the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity (OE), Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Office, and Office of Science. Our researchers are applying expertise for these offices to optimize performance of new materials, scale up new materials and processes, and validate the new materials and processes at industry-relevant prototypes and scales.
In collaboration with universities, industry, utilities, and other national laboratories, our research and development efforts have resulted in more than 54 U.S. patents and 24 commercial licenses for energy storage technologies as of 2021.
Energy storage for the grid
Redox flow batteries help create a more stable grid because of their ability to store large amounts of energy from renewable sources like the wind or sun. Under the DOE’s OE Energy Storage Program, PNNL researchers are advancing grid-scale storage from fundamental materials and devices, enhanced safety and reliability, policy modeling, and supporting evaluation, controls, and analysis of deployed systems.
This work includes developing novel materials in flow, sodium, zinc, lead-acid, and flywheels that are boosting grid battery performance, safety, and reliability. Our research teams have developed kilowatt-scale prototypes of redox flow systems and are conducting reliability testing on 3- to 10-kW commercial battery systems that will improve grid performance.
A key advance by PNNL is in vanadium flow batteries, where several chemistry innovations have increased the energy density by 70 percent and temperature stability by 80 percent. These technologies have been licensed to industry, culminating in a 2013 FLC Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer.
Batteries for transportation
Next-generation, high-energy rechargeable lithium-metal batteries are often considered the “holy grail” of batteries for electric vehicles. PNNL energy storage experts are leading the charge for this quest on behalf of DOE’s Battery500 Consortium. PNNL is leading the Battery500 consortium, which consists of four national labs and five universities. In addition, there are 10 seedling projects across the country to support the consortium.
By implementing the innovations developed under the Battery500 Consortium, a record of 600 stable cycles has been demonstrated in a prototype 350-Wh/kg lithium-metal pouch cell. The consortium has also developed a 400-Wh/kg lithium-metal pouch cell and now is pushing toward 500Wh/kg.
Patents derived from the consortium in the past four years have already been licensed to large domestic companies. Researchers in the consortium also developed Li-Batt Design App to help battery developers and researchers easily and rapidly design lithium-metal-based pouch cells. In its first year, the software generated four revenue-bearing licenses and one government-use agreement, with many more entities evaluating the software and considering a site license.
As part of another DOE collaboration, the Silicon Consortium Project, our teams are using specialized PNNL characterization capabilities to examine the interfacial reactions on anodes made from silicon. The research is helping to understand why silicon-based lithium-ion batteries have short life spans. PNNL is supporting other organizations to enhance the calendar life of silicon-based lithium-ion batteries.
For vehicles propelled by hydrogen fuel cells, the PNNL energy storage team is developing new catalysts not made from more costly platinum group metals—which can account for half the cost of the fuel cell.
PNNL is using new materials and cell designs to develop improved batteries that meet targeted performance metrics for sensor applications. Our teams are developing and deploying state-of-the-art micro-batteries for miniaturized sensors, producing up to 1,000 units every year.
To address manufacturing challenges for advanced battery materials and devices, our PNNL energy storage experts are engaging in public-private partnerships with entities ranging from major corporations to prestigious universities, with a focus on de-risking, scaling, and accelerating adoption of new technologies.
Supporting these partnerships is PNNL’s Advanced Battery Facility, which bridges the gap between fundamental battery research and commercial-scale battery development. The facility allows our energy storage experts to explore a broad range of chemistries and materials at a commercially relevant scale. All materials and new concepts will be validated in realistic battery systems.