Ambient Temperature Aqueous Sulfur Batteries for Ultralow Cost Grid Storage

Sunday, 1 October 2017: 16:20
Maryland D (Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center)
Z. Li (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Virginia Tech), M. S. Pan, L. Su, P. C. Tsai, J. M. Valle, A. F. Badel, S. L. Eiler (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), F. R. Brushett (Department of Chemical Engineering, MIT), and Y. M. Chiang (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Sulfur is an attractive reactant for such concepts due to its exceptionally low cost, high natural abundance, and high specific and volumetric capacity owing to its two-electron reaction. Taking the cost-per-capacity (e.g., in US$/Ah) as a metric, sulfur has the lowest cost of any known electrode-active compound with the exception of water and air. However, in order to take advantage of sulfur’s low-cost potential, all other components must also have low cost.

Towards enabling ultralow cost grid storage, we demonstrate an ambient-temperature aqueous rechargeable flow battery that uses low-cost polysulfide chemistry in conjunction with lithium or sodium as the working ion, and an air-breathing cathode. Four different laboratory cell constructions are used to test the half-cell and full-cell reactions, including a pumped air-breathing cell that exhibits stable room-temperature cycling over 960h with a lithium polysulfide anolyte and dissolved lithium sulfate catholyte. In this approach the solution energy density is 30-150 Wh/L, which exceeds current solution-based flow batteries, and the chemical cost of stored energy is exceptionally low, especially when using sodium polysulfide (~1 US$/kWh). Results of techno-economic modeling are also presented, which show that when projected to full system-level, this new approach has energy and power costs that are comparable to those of pumped hydroelectric storage (PHS) and underground compressed air energy storage (CAES), but without their geographical and environmental constraints.

This work was supported as part of the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research, an Energy Innovation Hub funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Basic Energy Sciences.