Materials, Devices and Processes for Energy and Environmental Sustainability
Current Research Group
Research in Progress
Degrees Granted

Large Scale Rapid Response Energy Storage and Electrical Energy Generation System

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(Funded by BU's Ignition Award)

Prof. Uday B. Pal, Dr. Peter Zink, Prof. Srikanth Gopalan, Prof. Soumendra Basu

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Ignition Award: The Ignition Award Program awards funds to Boston University faculty to bridge the gap between government-funded, discovery-oriented research and the follow-on development work performed by external commercial or non-profit entities. By enabling researchers to generate relevant data, reach key milestones, develop a prototype, or test an implementation strategy the Ignition Awards will help bring raw technology and business concepts to a mature enough state where they can be either licensed, form the basis of a new company, or create a new, non-profit social enterprise.

In this program we are developing a cost-effective and innovative rapid response large-scale energy storage and recovery system at less than $100/kWh for grid-scale application. The energy storage is based on an exceptionally high energy density system, W/WO3 (20 kWh/L of tungsten based on LHV of hydrogen), cycled between the tungsten (W) metal and its oxide during energy storage and recovery cycles, respectively. In the next phase of the program, the storage system will be integrated with a reversible solid oxide electrochemical cell (RSOEC) stack. The solid oxide electrochemical cell will have the same architecture as a solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC). During the energy storage cycle, the cell stack will electrolyze steam using renewable or off-peak sources of electrical energy to produce hydrogen which will reduce WO3 to W (WO3(s) + 3H2(g) = W(s) + 3H2O(g)). The steam coming out of the storage system will be fed back into the electrolyzer to continue the process until the required amount of energy is stored as W metal. And during periods of peak demand or to maintain base load conditions for renewable energy sources, the RSOEC will operate as a fuel cell stack. It will use hydrogen generated by reducing steam with the W metal and converting the W metal back to WO3 (W(s) + 3H2O(g) = WO3(s) +3H2(g)). The by-product steam coming out of the fuel cell will continue the above reaction until all the stored energy from the W is recovered. The storage system will thus store energy when the electrochemical cell stack is operated as a steam electrolyzer, and generate electricity from the stored energy when the cell stack is operated as a fuel cell; the novel storage system avoids the need to store hydrogen. This will address the intermittency and ramping challenges for the transmission of renewable electric energy and variations in peak demand. The proposed system will accelerate adoption of renewable energy technologies and reduce GHG emissions from the electricity generation sector.