DOE Awards $10.1M to Advance New Grid-Scale Energy Storage Technologies

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) said on Nov. 23 that it has awarded about $10.1 million in funding to four companies to advance grid-scale energy storage technologies.

The funding was part of a $125 million round of funding from DOE’s ARPA-E OPEN 2015 program supporting transformational energy technology projects.

“The ARPA-E projects … highlight how American ingenuity can spur innovation and generate a wide range of technology options to address our nation’s most pressing energy issues,” U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in a statement. “As we look beyond COP21, the energy technologies [DOE] invests in today will provide the solutions needed to combat climate change and develop a global low-carbon economy in the future.”

Among the grid-scale awards is Salt Lake City-based Ceramatec’s project to develop a modular electrochemical process for a power-to-liquid fuel system based on ammonia. According to DOE, a new synthesis approach will combine chemical and electrochemical steps to facilitate the high-energy step of breaking the molecular nitrogen bond. The proposed method could enable distributed ammonia production for energy storage, alternative fuels and agriculture, decrease energy input by more than 20 percent, and substantially simplify the process. The company received $2.3 million for the project.

Boca Raton, Fla.-based Dioxide Materials received $2 million in funding to develop an alkaline water electrolyzer for an improved power-to-gas system, which is used to store energy in the hydrogen chemical bond. According to DOE, high-conductivity membranes that can function under alkaline conditions could lead to a 10x lower electrolyzer stack cost because they allow higher current densities and enable systems that do not require platinum catalysts.

With a $2.8 million funding award, a team led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory will design two-dimensional proton-selective membranes for use in storage technologies, such as flow batteries or electrolyzers for liquid-fuel storage. According to DOE, current proton-selective membranes (e.g., Nafion) require hydration, but the proposed materials would be the first low-temperature membranes that conduct protons without the need for hydration. The membranes could have the potential to lower costs by removing system components and complexity, DOE said.

Iowa State University received $3 million to create a sodium-based battery that will have a high energy content and can be easily recycled. DOE said that commercially available sodium-based batteries operate at elevated temperatures, while the proposed sodium battery would operate at room temperature, uses a benign and scalable solid-stack design for a long cycle life. The group expects to achieve a 20 percent improvement in energy density over state-of-the-art lithium-ion cells.

Other Technologies

DOE selected 41 projects in total under the OPEN 2015 solicitation, with approximately 36 percent of the projects led by universities, 39 percent by small businesses, 10 percent by large businesses, 10 percent by national labs, and 5 percent by nonprofits.

The awards include a total of about $20.6 million for seven projects addressing industrial processes and waste heat, and a total of about $15.5 million for four projects for wind, solar and tidal technologies.

Lead image: Innovation concept. Credit: Shutterstock.

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