Giant Flow Batteries Could Power Your City in the Future

Scientists are looking into sustainably powering
entire cities, and with liquid-based redox flow batteries, we’re one step closer to
making that happen. If we’re ever going to replace fossil fuels
with renewable sources like solar and wind power, then we’re going to need a way to
store energy for when it’s dark and not windy, or just for when the demand for power
exceeds the output. If you’re familiar with any sort of electronic
device, then there is one pretty obvious answer: batteries. Charge them up when demand is low but output
it high, then let the juice loose when that flips. But there are different battery types, and
all have their own strengths and weaknesses. This best battery for a job like this might
be one that uses flowing liquids, called a redox flow battery. A redox flow battery is sort of a hybrid between
a battery and a fuel cell. It consists of two tanks of an electrolyte
liquid, one positive and one negative. In between the tanks is a cell stack, where
the positive and negative solutions are pumped to but kept separated by a membrane. Inside the cell stack the ions in the negatively
charged solution give up an electron, a process called oxidation. Those electrons are picked up by an electrode
in the cell stack, and they travel through whatever needs to be powered before arriving
at another electrode on the other side of the membrane. There the ions in the positive solution pick
up the electrons, a process called reduction. This frees up positively charged hydrogen
ions, which travel back across the membrane and maintain the charge balance. When charging up, the entire process happens
in reverse. But hold up, why go through all this when
we have already lithium-ion batteries? You know, the ones in cell phones, laptops,
electric cars, and oh yeah, household battery packs designed for exactly this purpose? The problem is that while a big ol’ lithium-ion
battery might be suitable for your house, they don’t scale up well for something as
big as an entire city. Lithium isn’t an abundant material either,
so it’s not sustainable to use it for these huge applications. And anyone who’s had the same phone for
more that a couple years can tell you that lithium-ion batteries degrade and lose their
ability to hold a charge over time. On the other hand, flow cell batteries have
qualities that make them perfect for large-scale power storage, like scalability. Need to store more energy? Get bigger tanks that hold more solution,
that’s it. Worried about degradation? Some electrolyte solutions used in redox flow
batteries can last for about 5,000 charge cycles, five times longer than lithium-ion
batteries. What about price and sustainability? Ah, about that… The most popular metal used in redox flow
batteries is vanadium because it charges and discharges reliably for thousands of cycles. But the cost of vanadium is rising, and if
vanadium redox batteries go mainstream that price could skyrocket. Researchers have tried to replace vanadium
with organic molecules, but those tend to degrade and need replacement every few months,
or the solution they’re in has to be very acidic or basic, which can damage pumps or
be hazardous in case of a leak. But scientists are undeterred, and recently
researchers from USC announced organic water-based redox batteries that can last for about 15
years at one tenth the cost of a lithium-ion battery. So far the battery they’ve made is enough
for the basic electricity demands of a single house, but their goal is to one day have electricity
on tap for entire mega-cities. The technology is promising enough that China
is building a massive vanadium redox flow battery with a storage capacity of 800 Mega
Watt hours. That’s enough for thousands of homes. The battery is scheduled to come online by
2020. China has plenty of vanadium reserves so they’re
not too concerned about it’s cost, but if organic flow cell batteries become comparable,
those might not be too far behind. One day in the near future, they might play
a vital role in green energy grids around the world. If you liked this, subscribe! And then maybe watch this cool video about
how we can make batteries..out of DIAMONDS. And fun fact: While Vanadium may not be the
future of redox flow batteries, it is super cool. When vanadium gains electrons it changes color,
going from yellow, to blue, to green, and finally purple. thanks for watching and we’ll see you next
time on Seeker.

100 thoughts on “Giant Flow Batteries Could Power Your City in the Future”

  1. Hey all 👋 Some of you may have notice that the hydrogen ions are flowing the opposite direction, nice catch! They should be flowing negative to positive. During the discharge cycle, vanadium ions lose an electron on the negative side freeing up the hydrogen ions to pass through to the positive side. They do the opposite while charging and storing energy! If you’d like to know more details about redox flow batteries check out theses articles:

  2. Lithium is not abundant? "We do not know for certain how much lithium exists within the Earth. As recently as 2015, it was estimated that the planet holds enough lithium reserves to maintain global production for 365 years."

  3. I think this is a good idae! To much windmills is terrible. This is hydrogene i think and THAT is good.

  4. The biggest "batteries" we have in the UK at the moment are simply places with a reservoir, a shaft, some turbines and some pumps, oh, and a whole lot of water. When we have surplus power, it drives the pumps to push water up into the reservoir. When demand exceeds capacity, the sluices are opened and water pours down through the turbines, delivering on-demand power to the National Grid. It's not 100% efficient, and we don't have many of them, but it's better than nothing at all. Our other way of covering situations where demand exceeds provision is simply to close some relays and import electricity from France, which we then pay a premium for. I prefer the pumped water method!
    Edit: Almost forgot, we also have "green" power companies who will reduce the supply to big consumers in order to more efficiently balance the load. I think this is a good partial solution, but it's not very popular, and these companies also charge more for their electricity than most other companies, further reducing their popularity.

  5. Look up a company called 1414 degrees. It uses molten silicon as a battery. Not limited by cycles and cheap to build (no rare materials needed)

  6. Dude 3/4 through and you finally say anything to do with your title.. blocking da fooook out of this channel. “Click bait”

  7. Vanadium is currently $9.40/lb of V2O5 pentoxide flake in China and $9.65/lb in Europe, that's not very expensive.

    And given that companies can literally lease the vanadium electrolyte out and re-use it over again with no degradation in a brand new VRFB after ie. 25 years, the CAPEX is brought down generously considering the electrolyte is 30-50% of the cost of the VRFB units.

    And in comparison to something like a lithium battery on a large scale, the only way vanadium doesn't completely throw lithium out the door for energy storage is due to lithium's popularity and lower CAPEX, even though after 10 years the maximum capacity of the battery falls to around 80%, and at 15 you're lucky to be around 50-65%.

    Cellcube Energy Storage System's newest VRFB's achieved efficiencies of 94% for charging and 88% for dis-charging (German/Canadian company). They very recently obtained the contract for 50MW/200MWH in Australia.

  8. Produce the energy as close to the demand as possible. These batteries might make that much more feasible allowing many homeowners to get off the energy grid. That would vastly reduce the cost of transmission and distribution.

  9. This is how I imagine the future: fill a bucket with water. Stick some sort of contraption in it that contains a solar cell on top. Voilà! You are making hydrogen.

  10. Hello I don’t usually comment, but I just saw a Tedx talk. It demostrases how nuclear plans are more green than solar and wind power…… how for example it take up less real estate, and it we can safely store the waste product in a room instead of shipping solar panels to 3rd world county to be dismantled and end up somewhere on a land field. Can you please shine some light this topic.

    Side note
    Compared to the US, France has one or the worlds lowest energy bill. Due to the fact they embraced nuclear energy.

  11. This is really interesting, but i'm now stuck on the thaught of using bacterial extremaphiles to maintain acidity in a more conventional battery configuration, imagine if growing/regaining your batteries storage capacity by "feeding" it bacterial growth products was possible, now that's something we could potentially scale up indefinitely.

  12. Large scale batteries can be a very profitable business for the people who will buy electricity, when it's cheap and sell for profit on the next day. It's like a new business that will be possible with such large scale batteries.

  13. Back I the early 70's my dad was on a project that took us to Australia looking to improve the process of removing vanadium from shale oil without ruining the oil, nice blast from the past to see they keep coming up with new uses. Vanadium was and I think still is used in steel alloys where they need light and strong steel but at least back then it was pretty expensive.

  14. Did we forget that Nikola Telsa developed wireless energy already? Free energy for all of us
    Why don't you talk about that you tool

  15. Stupid people batteries aren’t the future instead a energy source that is clean and safe batteries are so damn dangerous why do you think they have been around so long and still haven’t been perfected maybe because it’s a failed technology.

  16. I guess you guys didn't do your homework the Tesla powerwall can be cycled around 5,000 times. and they are working on making that even more. Also, about of lithium in them is around 2%

  17. How much superior are chemical batteries compared to a mechanical one? Like lifting a heavy weight really high up and letting it fall driving a heavy geared turbine when energy is required? Or pumping water to one side of a dam, and letting it drive turbines as it falls back.

  18. Tesla just bought a company that has proven technology that can easily do 1500 cycles with 90% or more life remaining and does not use cobalt. Lithium is the 3rd most abundant metal and 25th most abundant element. There is tons of it. As usual seeker dropping the ball on things where tesla is doing a great job.

  19. Sodium ion batteries would be better than lithium ion batteries. Sodium is ridiculously common. They need some development though.

  20. Dude. As a vegan I have some advice for you: eat a freakin' cheese burger, you're wasting away!!!

  21. We could all be in heaven… where we are all going to go….the nonexistence heaven…

    There is perfection before we are born…is there not?….

    Over infinite time, Physics and Chemistry created biology.. biology created us, after 4 000 000 000 years of evolution…

    We are the victims, and victimizers of that UNINTELLIGENT process, as we were created IMPERFECT, in an IMPERFECT environment for us…

    We are the prisoners, rapists, orphans, murderers, blind, drunk, retarded, homeless, losers, sick, of this reality that we do not control nor understand totally…

    We are IMPERFECT, because our design is so, not because we want to be IMPERFECT…

    We are a problem to ourselves…as we create all our sickness and misery!…by PROCREATING…is that not idiotic, ridiculous?

    There is PERFECTION before we are born!..
    Please understand this:
    There is PERFECTION before we are born!.. we come from heaven/God!…

    Do not impose this stupid life on others, be kind, intelligent, merciful…

    End all problems…be The Savior……

    If you understand this message pass it on, share with others its importance and value, copy, then paste this message, make your own, post them on YouTube comments section….

    Became a fighter for the ultimate cause…PERFECTION….


    Learn the facts, watch the playlist…

  22. Why don’t we have solar panels in the desert , charge up huge batteries the size of the current oil tankers ??

  23. Redox flow batteries have lots of flaws and it still has a lot of work , research, development and improvements to be done I've seen some university research sheets about the redox battery , their main problems are that the nafion membrane is rediculously expensive and it tends to degrade often because the acidic environments .

  24. I looked into this a few years ago and while it did look promising, the LIQUID METAL BATTERY from Ambri is a much better, cheaper, and longer lasting form of grid-storage battery.

  25. All-vanadium system liquids last indefinitely and can be re-used after (say) a 25-year plant operation on a 5-10 year maintenance cycle.An individual cell can hit north of 100,000 deep cycles if you cycle constantly. Really the only breakdowns are in the reduction of the carbon felt anode and in the membrane, and balance of plant items like pumps.

  26. There is no technology to make renewable work. Until there is a storage solution, the renewable tech is a waste of time. 150 years and counting of no real good battery tech.

  27. Could flow batteries not be used for electric vehicles? Both solutions could be replaced at pump stations on routes, where it gets recharged again for the next replacement.

  28. It's interesting to notice that the industry still want to find a way to prevent us to have our own power system at home. All they want is to keep fueling the population and sending them the bills and setting the price they want. Scumbags!

  29. Does anyone ever fact check or better yet proof read the material BEFORE the record the video. If they do they dropped the ball on this video. "While lithium batteries are OK for homes they don't scale up for cities." So let's ignore making homes grid free and we can all keep paying for our power grid owners $$$$ indefinably and ignore home can be grid free today. The return on investment costs today earns better than the same money left in your IRA or retirement account. Yet people are not on board. To bad for them.

  30. i think flow batteries have promise. but the problem with this argument is they always compare where this technology could go with there lithium ion batteries are or were. Tesla just bought a company that plans to double the life of lithium-ion. major money is moving into lithium mining, and there is not shortage of lithium which only makes up 2% of the of battery. its mostly nickle. Lithium ion is going to fall very fast in price because a ton of demand is there from EVs and behind the meter storage. i hope we get something better than lithium ion, but I dont think thats coming for awhile. my worry is that people hold of on lithium ion purchases. even though right now you can easily break even on an EV or solar plus storage. These products are ready to go now and they can easily take us to 80% renewable energy. we have time to figure out the next generation. my best guess is lithium ion remains king for at least another decade. flow batteries will be helpful for grid storage. but on an individual level if you can afford an EV or solar plus storage you should be confident its a big deal. its not just the emissions you offset. more important is the effect of being an early adopter. you help lower the price for the next adopter. also, family and friends will follow your example. the domino effect is massive.

  31. I remember watching a FullyCharged episode about flow batteries being developed and tested in Australia I am surprised that they have not yet been put into play by at least some forward thinking entity.

  32. Your site & many others keep saying, "powering the world with batteries…" This title falls to non-sequitur status…We are talking storage of power, not origins of power. Storage of power exists in many forms, many of these types are simplistic in action, inexpensive & utterly reliable. This trend towards highly complex, unknown technologies & their complementary horrid expenses is to be "discouraged". The Apollo approach to thermal management of the Lunar Rovers batteries was ingenious & very much in tune with the KISS principle….something lost in current approaches.

  33. @Seeker
    i have a design for a power plant .
    one man runs it .
    No fossil fuel.
    No sun.
    No wind .
    one man…its newton friendly.

  34. Tesla's power pack batteries last 4,000 charge cycles, not 1000 cycles. Soon all Tesla batteries will last that long and their cars with have 1 million mile warranties

  35. Great video giving a simple and clear explanation of redox flow batteries! Great job! However, I would like to point out three things:
    – Vanadium solution is extremely acidic. It is not limited to organic solutions. The same problems mentioned about pumps, etc., also apply to vanadium.
    – Organic solutions for flow batteries have demonstrated to work in a wide range of pH, not only acidic or basic medium: .
    – Most organic solutions are extremely hard to produce in mass scale due to their synthesis process. Besides the very well pointed out solution instability, this is probably the major drawback of organic solutions.
    Though, it is a great technology which hopefully can help us overcome the intermittance of renewable energy sources.

  36. Pair these with the new magnetic turbine by soon to be famous Dennis Danzik and we could have all our energy needs met.

  37. Yiu Need to look at a Australian company – RED FLOW they have been making flow battery's for about 10 years they all ready do what you have been talking about

  38. Flow Battery???? All so complicated and waste producing mess … better to store energy by pumping water, where possible. For example in California .. locate solar panels in the desert surrounding the Salton Sea .. and pump that water to the ocean, an elevation rise of over 200 feet … let the sea water return, producing power all along that very long pipeline for distribution to everywhere between LA and San Diego …. This would reduce the Salton Sea contamination and reduce its salt levels thus improving the ecological disaster existing there for decades. The government could pay for it all by selling property surrounding the Salton Sea which will sky rocket in value!!!! Also, easy integration of a Desalination fresh water delivery systems would be a low cost adder compared to alternatives. So much potential, for little cost … ya heard it here first!!!! (I only ask for 2000 feet of lake frontage).

  39. Nickel Iron would actually be best for this purpose.. And yes, i know what you are going to say "its old and outdated, and weak storage capacity blah blah"..
    But.. Lithium batteries are best for smartphone or a a gadget, but not for a large scale projects. They are dangerous and sensitive and they dont last long. Lead acid also are bad for very large scale because they also dont last that long and they are practically dead at 10v. And also they produce alot of hydrogen which is explosive gas.
    But, Nickel iron batteries are for all inteses and purpose indestructible. You can deep cycle them all you want, you can leave them discharged, you can overcharge untill it starts to boil and you wont damage them.. Unless you literally boil them dry….
    Electrolite can last for decades and it is easy to make because it is basically made from lime (not fruit) which you can make yourself.
    On a large scale they can be better

  40. What are all those nuclear supporters complaining about?

    Even if we would go primarily for nuclear energy, we would need large scale storage, you know that, right?
    Nuclear Power plants are generally base load power plants, they don't like being regulated up and down all the time. They are turned on and then run more or less constantly, which means producing too much during night-hours and too little during peak load. This was the reason why pumped hydro facilities were established in the first place, but they won be sufficient when you turn all the variable fossil fueled power plants off and go full nuclear…

  41. What's the energy density of this fluid? Could this be used as a way to quickly recharge electric cars by just swapping for more charged fluid? I'd heard this type of thing discussed but I don't think this was the technology they were talking about.

  42. Thanks for explanation perhaps a chip can be made out of plastic with a waxcoat which has then a + and a – charge.

  43. Ultra super capacitors that can store megawatts per cubic decimeter would be more ideal. You could discharge them completely and not worry much, have a recharged cycle of 100k or more have less environmental impact and are currently a fiction but would be a possiblity in the future. My opinion of course.

  44. As long as everyone still move factory to China, all you just make China feel more arrogant and strong. So, stop everything made in china

  45. You failed to mentioned that there are many big Vanadium redox flow battery installations around the world already. Very poor material making. You didn't even show the mentioned battery in operation.

  46. When I think o flow batteries , the huge untapped reserves of electrical potential in spring water and sewage comes to mind.

  47. Here's what I'm wondering; would one of these batteries work for a modern hybrid transatlantic ocean liner?

    I've been drawing up a design lately for a hyper-efficient, coal-fired passenger liner that runs on batteries while passengers are on deck during the day.

  48. I do not have the crystal ball, but from what the people of visual politik say, the Lithium deposits of Argentina can balance our difficult public accounts and Argentina can be due to its great competitive advantage the Supermarket of the World, in addition to the Vaca Muerta Oil What displeases me is that the media of my country and all politicians do not communicate this issue well, there is no good intention to be able to speak clearly without ambiguity about the correct course towards a liberalism like New Zealand, Chile with only 4% of unemployment without inflation and a balanced economy, such as Australia or Canada, but to make these transformations you must clearly communicate what the direction is, and I do not understand the bad intentions of the media that do not transmit this well and also absolutely all politicians neither do they transmit it or sell the road to the common good of one of the countries of the world with greater wealth. natural, look at the potential of Argentina with Lithium

  49. I’ve heard flow batteries could be used in cars and could be re filled in minutes rather than hours

    If that’s true why is tesla investing so much into lithium ion batteries when this could be such a better way forward

  50. Thanks! One day, comparable batteries might just help with power storage around the Solar system! 𝓡𝓲𝓴𝓴𝓲 𝓣𝓲𝓴𝓴𝓲.

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