Renewable energy research receives multimillion-dollar federal backing

Harvard researchers ink contract with ARPA-E to further develop organic mega flow battery

Prof. Michael J. Aziz in his laboratory with a prototype flow battery. (Photo by Eliza Grinnell, SEAS Communications.)

Cambridge, Mass. – April 30, 2014 – The U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E) has awarded a three-year, $3.75-million contract to a team of Harvard researchers to further develop a promising grid-scale battery technology they demonstrated earlier this year. The innovative organic flow battery is designed to safely and inexpensively store solar and wind energy for use when the sun isn't shining and the wind isn't blowing.

The battery was created in the laboratories of Michael J. Aziz, Gene and Tracy Sykes Professor of Materials and Energy Technologies at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences; Roy G. Gordon, Thomas Dudley Cabot Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Materials Science; and Alán Aspuru-Guzik, Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology.

The team demonstrated the technical feasibility of the concept using seed funding from ARPA-E.

Their unusual approach, using small organic molecules rather than expensive metals, has the potential to make power from intermittent renewable energy sources such as wind and solar far more economical and reliable. The breakthrough was announced in a paper published in Nature in January.

The new support will allow the researchers to further refine the molecular chemistry and to engineer an improved prototype. In collaboration with the Harvard team, Connecticut-based Sustainable Innovations, LLC, will develop and deploy a commercial version of the organic flow battery that will demonstrate the technology at a large scale. William W. Hogan, Raymond Plank Professor of Global Energy Policy at Harvard Kennedy School and one of the world’s foremost experts on electricity markets, will model the economics of using the technology.

Topics: Environment, Climate

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Michael J. Aziz

Gene and Tracy Sykes Professor of Materials and Energy Technologies

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