Oregon BEST Helping Boost Battery Life by 3X

New chemical treatment process reduces degradation, replacement of redox flow battery cores

In a move aimed at fast-tracking battery-based energy storage solutions, Oregon BEST is helping startup eChemion (formerly NRGindependence) collaborate with Oregon State University engineers to advance a chemical treatment technology that could extend the life of redox flow battery cores by as much as three times, up to 20 years.

Rechargeable redox flow batteries, which can be used to store renewable energy generated by solar or wind, use liquid electrolytes pumped from separate storage tanks through a closed-loop system that includes an electrode array, or core. At this core, often composed of carbon, a chemical reaction called redox (reduction-oxidation) takes place and ion exchange generates a flow of electrical current.

However, a major problem for this type of battery is that the core gradually degrades over time, decreasing performance and requiring replacement of the core every few years, which is a costly procedure. eChemion has developed a treatment process that chemically coats the carbon core so degradation is significantly reduced, extending core life by as much as three times.

"This process offers a substantial cost reduction to battery manufacturers because they don't have to replace the cores every two to five years," said by Alex Bistrika (pictured, right, above), president and CEO of eChemion. "Many redox flow battery manufacturers are startups operating at a loss because they are staking out a market that hasn't taken off yet, in part due to the cost of replacing cores, and this is the market our technology is going to enable."

Although the treatment adds an estimated four to six percent in up-front manufacturing costs, replacing a core only once every 20 years instead of three to four times results in significant long-term savings, Bistrika said. His company is working with several battery manufacturers who recognize the core degradation problem and are supplying samples of their battery cores for testing of the eChemion treatment in an OSU lab.

Alex Yokochi, (pictured, left, above)  an OSU assistant professor of chemical engineering, is using Oregon BEST commercialization funding to purchase new equipment that will enable industrial scale testing of eChemion's chemical treatment process, and other battery testing.

"We're setting up a center for electrochemical device characterization, or battery testing, where startups and researchers can test a wide range of batteries for storage capacity and measure and analyze internal performance," Yokochi said. "As far as I know, there are no other facilities like this that a small business can use. eChemion will be our first client."

Ken Vaughn, Oregon BEST's Director of Commercialization Programs, said the project is a good example of how Oregon BEST targets cleantech startups with funding to help overcome early R&D hurdles. "This project shows how a key investment in research tools can help a startup collaborate with university researchers to advance clean technologies that have the potential to help solve our energy storage needs and grow high-tech jobs in Oregon," Vaughn said.

Additional funding of the project came from the OSU Venture Fund.

Media Contact: Gregg Kleiner, 541-740-9654
Sources: Ken Vaughn, Oregon BEST, 503-430-4529; Alex Bistrika, CEO, eChemion, 541-829-3166; Alex Yokochi, OSU, 541-737-9357

About eChemion: http://www.echemion.com/
eChemion, a research company working on various aspects of energy storage, aims to optimize and strengthen commercial standing of stationary energy storage technologies by addressing the issues that hinder market competitiveness. The company's goal is to clear the roadblocks on the way to inexpensive large-scale energy storage, thus enabling better integration and proliferation of intermittent renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power, and, ultimately, enabling a cleaner energy future.