A Canadian flow battery developer using a low cost zinc technology is in discussion with a large European customer.
Zinc8energy Solutions already has deals in New York state for its zinc technology, which uses a custom stack, rather than using the more common flow battery design that uses vanadium. This design takes zinc ions in a low cost potassium hydroxide electrolyte and combines it with air to release the energy. The resulting zinc oxide is split by a regenerative engine powered by the renewable energy source and added back into the used electrolyte to start again.
“We use a metal bipolar plate for housing the zinc particle and for air distribution, alongside an air cathode for oxygen reaction,” said Dr Simon Fan, chief technology officer of Zinc8energy. “An electrolyte-moisturized separator which used in other common batteries provides a physical barrier between the anode and the cathode in order to prevent shorting.”
The amount of power is varied by changing the size of the tank, while the stack and the regenerative engine remains the same. This means that the system can be easily scaled to match wind, solar or combined heat and power (CHP) systems.
“This is ground breaking,” said Ron MacDondald, president and CEO of Zinc8energy, which changed its name from MGX Renewables last month. “With vanadium flow batteries the trouble was getting electrolyte at the purity we needed so cost was a significant issue and that can be up to 60 per cent of the capital cost, but with zinc its 10 per cent.”
“We have one prospective European supplier and licensee. Europe is a very big market for us,” he said. The New Yoirk deals mean the company is ramping up for production. “It has been designed for mass production for late 2022. We have 20 patents and four pending with three other patent applications,“ he added.
“On the cathodes, we have four patents as we couldn’t get the performance we needed at the cost we needed. We are producing them in-house and eventually that will move to a separate operation that we will own,” said McDonald. “We’ve got the whole thing designed for mass production and identified globally the suppliers that we want to work with.”
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