Vanadium industry: IIT Madras researchers develop alternatives to conventional batteries

A team of Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT Madras) researchers has developed an alternative to the conventional lithium-ion and lead-acid batteries for industrial applications, reports. These batteries can even be integrated into solar and wind energy. This Project has been supported by grants from the Ministry of Education and Department of Science and Technology (DST), and involved researchers from the Departments of Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, Electrical Engineering, and the Central Electronics Centre of IIT Madras.

The research was conducted by Dr. Ravendra Gundlapalli, Ph.D. Scholar, Department of Chemical Engineering, IIT Madras; Professor Sreenivas Jayanti, Department of Chemical Engineering, IIT Madras, and their team. The team has filed two patents and presented this in numerous national and international conferences besides publishing research papers in reputed peer-reviewed journals.

Mentioning these developments as crucial as India is aiming for a 40 percent of electricity generation from solar and wind energy by 2030, an IIT Madras statement said: “With an increase in the share of renewable energy sources in the world’s energy production, there is a need for large-scale energy storage for both on-grid and off-grid applications to accommodate the natural variation of renewable energy sources. Battery storage of energy is being seen as essential for many applications.”

Highlighting the importance of this research, Professor Jayanti said: “Our Research Team at IIT Madras is probably the first team in India to design, fabricate and execute indigenous kW-scale vanadium redox flow battery for application in energy storage, which can be integrated into renewable sources such as solar and wind energy.”

“We have developed operating protocols and design criteria for flow battery stack of power rating up to 10 kW using the prototype of a practical size that can be directly employed in industrial-scale stacks for grid-level storage” the professor added.

Elaborating on the technical aspects, Dr. Gundlapalli said: “Typical life of a solid-state battery is three to five years; vanadium flow batteries are commercially available with a warranty of 15 to 20 years. From a fire safety point of view, vanadium flow batteries are extremely safe as the electrolytes are not combustible and thermal runaway possibilities are practically nil.”

Dr. Gundlapalli added: “The major distinguishing characteristic of flow batteries from conventional solid-state batteries (like Li-ion and Lead-acid) is the independent rating of power and energy levels. In solid-state batteries, the power and energy levels are dependent on each other and these levels cannot be changed once the battery is fabricated.”

There are important advantageous characteristics of flow batteries. As the active species are in a liquid state and stored outside the battery, the energy can be stored indefinitely. The number of times the electrolyte can be charged or discharged is also very high. Also, there is no danger if the battery is completely drained. Thus, more percentage of energy storage capacity can be withdrawn effectively than what is possible with popular solid-state batteries, added the IIT Madras statement.

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