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Stanford Team Finds a ‘Liquid Battery’ Advance

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Stanford Team Finds a ‘Liquid Battery’ Advance

Climate Insider Brief:

  • Stanford researchers have made a breakthrough in developing liquid organic hydrogen carriers (LOHCs) for renewable energy storage.
  • LOHCs can store and release hydrogen using catalysts and elevated temperatures, potentially creating “liquid batteries” that can store energy and efficiently return it as usable fuel or electricity.
  • The researchers developed a novel, selective catalytic system that stores electrical energy in a liquid fuel without generating gaseous hydrogen.

As California and the world transition to renewable fuels, the need for new technologies to store power for the electric grid becomes more pressing. Stanford University researchers have made a significant breakthrough in the development of liquid organic hydrogen carriers (LOHCs), a promising technology for renewable energy storage.

Led by Robert Waymouth, a professor of chemistry at Stanford, the team has discovered a novel, selective catalytic system for storing electrical energy in a liquid fuel without generating gaseous hydrogen. The innovation could potentially lead to the creation of “liquid batteries” that can store energy and efficiently return it as usable fuel or electricity when needed.

The researchers have been studying isopropanol and acetone as ingredients in hydrogen energy storage and release systems. Isopropanol, also known as rubbing alcohol, is a high-density liquid form of hydrogen that can be stored or transported through existing infrastructure until it’s time to use it as a fuel in a fuel cell or to release the hydrogen for use without emitting carbon dioxide.

The challenge has been to develop a method to produce isopropanol with electricity that is efficient and doesn’t produce hydrogen gas. Daniel Marron, the lead author of the study, identified a solution by developing a catalyst system that combines two protons and two electrons with acetone to generate the LOHC isopropanol selectively, without generating hydrogen gas.

The key to the breakthrough was the discovery of cobaltocene, a chemical compound of cobalt, which was found to be an unusually efficient co-catalyst in this reaction. Cobaltocene delivered protons and electrons directly to the iridium catalyst, bypassing the production of hydrogen gas.

The research has significant implications for the development of LOHC systems, which could improve energy storage for industries and energy sectors or for individual solar or wind farms. The team hopes that their discovery will pave the way for the development of more affordable and scalable LOHC systems using non-precious earth metal catalysts, such as iron.

According to Waymouth, “This is basic fundamental science, but we think we have a new strategy for more selectively storing electrical energy in liquid fuels.” The ultimate goal is to create a system where excess energy is stored as isopropanol during periods of low demand, and then returned as electricity when needed. The process may seem complex, but as Waymouth describes it, “When you have excess energy, and there’s no demand for it on the grid, you store it as isopropanol. When you need the energy, you can return it as electricity.”

SOURCE: Eurekalert

Featured Image: Credit: Stanford Chemistry

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