UK (Lancaster University) New £3 million innovative battery project to make the most of renewable energy

Lancaster University researchers are working on a new £3 million international research project, called DualFlow, that combines battery storage with the ability to generate clean hydrogen as well as useful chemicals into one single hybrid technology.

The Dualflow hybrid system works as a conventional battery (electricity storage) as well as for chemical conversion to hydrogen and useful chemicals. The chemical conversion starts when the battery is full.

When there is excess electricity going into the system, stored energy from the battery is discharged in a mediated chemical electrolysis to produce hydrogen on one side, and valuable chemicals on the other.

The chemical conversion works by pumping charged battery electrolytes through separate reactors. For hydrogen production, the reactor is filled with catalytic particles to prompt charge transfer and hydrogen evolution from the water-based electrolyte.

Professor Kathryn Toghill, Chair in Sustainable Electrochemistry and Energy materials at Lancaster University, is leading the hydrogen evolution aspect of the project.

She said: “It is a privilege to be part of such a dynamic and varied consortium striving to achieve cost effective green hydrogen and alternative chemical solutions. Hybrid technologies have so much to offer in this increasingly renewable and decarbonised energy matrix.”

For chemical production, the reactor consists of a biphasic oil/water system where charged electrolyte oxidises chemicals at the water and organic interface. The reaction products are then extracted into the organic phase.

In this case, the plethora of chemicals that could be made include anti-HIV treatments and lidocaine (pain killer).

The energy conversion operation requires only reactors and catalyst for hydrogen evolution, keeping costs to a minimum and allowing sustainable materials to be used.

The Dualflow project was recently awarded £3 million by the European Innovation Council after a call for proposals: EIC Pathfinder challenge: Novel routes to green hydrogen production.

This Pathfinder Challenge’s aim is to develop new processes and technologies to produce green H2 entirely based on renewable sources and non-toxic, non-critical raw material.

Dr Kevin Lam, Associate Professor/Reader in Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Greenwich said: “HorizonEU grants are incredibly competitive, and so I am beyond thrilled that our consortium managed to secure multi-million funding for our DualFlow project.

“It is highly inspiring to be part of this adventure, where all of the members contribute their expertise in common to tackle one of the most significant challenges of our century: energy. The strength of our team is that it encompasses specialists in fields as diverse as novel materials or pharmaceutical compounds’ synthesis. Besides being an incredible scientific journey, it is also a unique human experience.”

This is an international collaboration with the University of Greenwich (UK), Turku University (Fin), Aalto University (Fin), Limerick University (IE), Aarhus University (DK) and Lancaster University (UK).