Yale team demonstrates innovative approach towards long-duration energy storage solution

Friday, May 21, 2021

A major hurdle in the pursuit of sustainable fuels is a step closer to being solved thanks to a new approach to long-duration energy storage.

Though more common today, the proliferation of solar power and other renewable energy sources has been limited by the cost, relative inefficiency and sheer scale required of the batteries needed for long-term energy storage.

A team of scientists at the Yale Energy Sciences Institute have now described the conceptual framework for the conversion of sustainably-generated hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) for long-duration energy storage. Unlike batteries, using this liquid medium energy from the sun is stored in the form of chemical bonds.

The findings, which were published today in Joule, are expected to drive the next wave of research that could define our ability to harness the sun’s rays for long-term power storage year-round.

Previous studies have shown that synthesis of hydrogen peroxide from water can enable the storage of renewable electrical energy, while the reverse conversion through H2O2 fuel cells can generate electricity on demand.

However, current catalysts and devices have underperformed theoretical predictions.

The team at Yale’s West Campus re-examined current fundamental research to re-imagine these devices, whose limited development has created a bottleneck for realizing viable efficiency targets from hydrogen peroxide.

“By re-engineering the surface, interface and device structures we are realizing the potential to integrate hydrogen peroxide generation and fuel cell devices,” said Shu Hu, Assistant Professor of Chemical & Environmental Engineering at the Energy Sciences Institute.

The scholars’ findings center on the concept of ‘reversibility’ – the back and forth conversion of hydrogen peroxide to and from water. This could lead towards increased efficiencies and the goal of 85% conversion efficiency - a significant increase from the continuous ‘round trip’ processes of current technologies.

As interest grows in the hydrogen “jump ball” and its potential to address the challenge of climate change, the scholars’ proposals hold promise towards achieving efficient on-site H2O2 production, more efficient power generation, and the global energy end game of more efficient power generation.

Co-authors of the study were Yale graduate student Devan Solanki, postdoc associate Tianshuo Zhao and visiting scholar Junying Tang of Tongji University.

By Jon Atherton