PNNL charged to transform large-scale energy storage | The American Ceramic Society

PNNL charged to transform large-scale energy storage

Thin beta-alumina electrolyte membrane used in a new, planar sodium-beta battery design being developed by EPT and PNNL. (Credit: PNNL.)

According to a Pacific Northwest National Lab press release, a team of researchers at PNNL and EaglePicher Technologies is developing a large-scale battery that could enable the widespread use of renewable energy sources by providing grid-scale energy storage. The work is part of an ARPA-E grant awarded to EaglePicher Technologies, a battery developer.

Researchers argue that the most promising technology for large-scale energy storage is the sodium-beta battery; however, current sodium-beta batteries are limited by reliability issues and excessive cost. The next generation of sodium-beta battery will incorporate a planar design instead of today’s tubular sodium-beta batteries.

PNNL estimates that the new sodium-beta battery could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 150 million tons per year in the United States alone.

The key to the EPT-PNNL approach is using a planar, stacked, modular battery design that employs thinner electrolyte materials. These materials will enable an estimated 30 percent reduction in operating temperature.

Planar designs also allow greater stacking efficiency, resulting in a 30 percent increase in energy density. Manufacturing processes are simplified and process yields are improved when fabricating planar, rather than tubular, ceramic components, leading to the reduction of fabrication costs by a factor of 10 over current tubular batteries.

The EPT-PNNL team expects to develop a prototype battery over the next three years. During this time, researchers at PNNL will focus on developing thin ceramic electrolyte materials, planar cell design and fabrication and advanced sealing technology. EPT has the lead responsibility for battery design, systems controls, testing and, eventually, full-scale manufacturing of battery modules.