Zinc Bromine Batteries: What would be realistically required?

Current commercial Zn-Br flow batteries have specific energies in the 34.4–54 W·h/kg region, with most companies being at the lower end of this range. In order for a static Zn-Br battery to be better than its current industrial counter-parts it would ideally improve on this specific energy while reducing the costs of production substantially.

My current tests using carbon cloth cathodes, Zinc anodes, fiberglass separators and Zinc Bromide electrolytes in the 0.25-0.5M range with a TBABr sequestering agent present at concentrations of around 0.1-0.2M have shown an ability to store around 0.5mAh with a weight of around 0.250g per total cell (no packaging material), which would give the cells a specific energy of around 3 W·h/kg, which is one order of magnitude lower than current commercial Zn-Br flow batteries.

An image of one of my current Zn-Br battery cells. The cell has a diameter of 0.5 inches and is placed inside a Swagelok cell with graphite electrodes for measuring

In terms of weight, I have been using a 0.2mm thick Zinc anode that is quite thicker than what would be strictly necessary for the battery, the anode thickness can be changed to 0.02mm Zinc foil (10x less mass) which would reduce the total amount of mass by more than 70%. The anode mass is currently around 180mg, so lowering this to 18mg would take the current specific energy to around 9 W·h/kg (since there is no expected loss in the current battery configuration from using a thinner Zn anode).

This improvement is still not enough, we need to increase the capacity by at least 4-6x which means increasing the amount of Zinc Bromide in the battery to at least the 1.5-2M range and increasing the amount of energy injected/extracted to at least 2.0-3.0 mAh for this battery. This means that TBABr is not going to work, reason why my tests are now going to move to using TMPhABr or TPABr. These new sequestering agents also have lower molecular weights, so they are bound to be significantly more “atom efficient” compared to TBABr. The end batteries right now contain around 50uL of electrolyte – I put 100uL but half is “pushed out” when Swagelok cells are closed (this is determined by weighting the dry and final battery cell) – so theoretically a 2-4M Zinc Bromide solution should offer a capacity of around 2.7-5.2 mAh but we are unlikely to be able to extract this amount because of the conductivity of the solution becoming lower as we plate Zn and oxidize bromide to perbromide in the cathode.

The current energy efficiency of the battery is still too low (max has been 60% in most cases) so the hope is that the higher Zinc Bromide concentration, coupled with the new sequestering agents, will help increase this efficiency to the 70-80% region while also helping improve maintain Coulombic efficiencies above 95%. The energy efficiency of current Zn-Br flow batteries is mostly below the 80% mark, so anything above this number would be highly desirable.

If the above mentioned sequestering agents can achieve these efficiencies at these concentrations then we would be able to reach specific energies of around 45 W·h/kg for the cells I’m constructing. If we can achieve energy efficiencies above 90% – already seen in published research using TPABr – this would already put them at a significantly more competitive place relative to current Zn-Br technology.

Currently Li-ion cells are in the 100-265 W·h/kg range, so this technology could only compete if significantly higher zinc bromide concentrations – in the order of 10M – can be achieved, while retaining a functional sequestering agent or if we can add a supporting electrolyte that enables the extraction of most of the zinc bromide without lowering the efficiency of the battery (although that electrolyte adds some weight). It is much more likely that a technology like this would compete in battery life and USD/kWh terms. Li-ion technology right now is at around 200 USD/kWh while a technology like Zn-Br in static cells could start at a fifth of this price. The life of a static Zn-Br battery with a viable sequestering agent is also expected to be significantly longer (>10,000 cycles) so that would also help it compete with Li-ion (with Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries surviving for around 2000 cycles when fully discharged on each cycle).

One thought on “Zinc Bromine Batteries: What would be realistically required?

  1. Pingback: Zinc Bromine Batteries: Going for high capacity with TMPhABr | Chemisting

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