Electrolyte Research Innovations

The Electrochemical Discovery Laboratory (EDL) and Electrolyte Genome Project are streamlining the way researchers can explore innovative battery technologies

One of the major obstacles to building the next generation of batteries is sifting through the thousands of possible chemistries.  How can you tell what different battery materials to pursue researching before actually doing the research.  The Electrolyte Genome Project seeks to solve this issue.  But even after identifying the correct materials, they are often not just lying around.  The Electrochemical Discovery Laboratory helps synthesize the necessary materials to be tested further.

The Electrolyte Genome Project

Electrolytes transport the electrically charged ions from one end of the battery to the other.  These ions flow in one direction when the battery is charging and the opposite when discharging.  The Electrolyte Genome uses computer modeling to compare thousands of different molecules in their abilities to act as an effective electrolyte for a given battery chemistry.

“Electrolytes are a stumbling block for many battery technologies, whether the platform is designed for electric vehicles or a flow battery for grid applications,” said Kristin Persson, principal investigator from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

The computer model consists of four phases that slowly pick the most promising molecules.  The first three test for universal electrolyte properties: oxidation-reduction potential, solubility of the salt in the solvent, and the stability of that solvent against extraneous side-reactions.  Then the last tier is used to model more specifically for a particular battery.  For example, the computer might test the interaction of the electrolyte with the anode and cathode.

“What we can do is calculate the properties of a large number of molecules and give experimentalists a much better set of materials to work with than if they were to explore all possible combinations,” Persson explained.

Learn more about the Electrolyte Genome Project here.

The Electrochemical Discovery Laboratory

Once promising electrolytes have been identified, JCESR then has to synthesize them to continue further testing.  The EDL becomes crucial to be able to create ultra-pure electrolyte solvents.  The lab consists of a “wet” lab and a “dry” lab.  The wet lab is used for producing the liquid electrolytes with unparalleled control over water content and other impurities.  The dry lab is used to create solid materials in batteries all without ever exposing them to the impurities in the air.

Learn more about EDL here.

Advanced battery technology offers a dynamic option as an innovative, multi-scale solution that promotes the expansion of clean energy across industries. As a JCESR partner organization, Clean Energy Trust leverages its position in the ecosystem to engage strategic stakeholders and seed pathways for commercialization of breakthrough battery innovations.

By Alex Foucault | April 20, 2016