Sun Catalytix, a company which spun out of MIT in 2009 to bring a low-cost catalyst to the market, has changed its main goal from enabling the hydrogen economy to designing a flow battery for grid storage. The first prototype is expected later this year.
The new flow battery will be made of two custom-designed electrolytes. According to the company’s CEO Mike Decelle, the initial testing of the kilowatt-scale system should also be done this year, hopefully helping the company to raise additional funding.
Flow batteries are a particularly interesting technology, because they can smooth out the variable supply of wind and solar energy. These batteries are highly desired as a back-up system for buildings and public facilities. If Sun Catalytix succeeds with making their product commercially available, they would be able to supply one megawatt of power for up to six hours.
Although they are many flow batteries, already connected to the grid, Sun Catalytix is introducing a product made of “designer molecules”, which is much cheaper and environmentally friendly. The anticipated electricity price will be around $250 per kilowatt-hour of capacity- much lower than what is available now.
Switching from stripping hydrogen from water to producing flow batteries is quite a drastic move for Sun Catalytix. Daniel Nocera, the company founder, planned to supply hydrogen power to developing countries using his “artificial leaf” technology. Unfortunately, time and funds were not enough for the idea to become realized.
With Decelle joining the team in 2011, the company started to develop commercial products that can be made in a much shorter term. One of these is the flow battery technology. The company has not yet released the names of materials used in the technology, but they claim that the chemistry will make the power density much higher than traditional designs. Besides the different elements, the flow batteries will have a traditional design.
The company is aware of the severe competition on the market, because of the numerous rules and demands for safety and cost.
Sun Catalytix, however, has not stopped developing and researching hydrogen-producing solar device. Nocera can still surprise the world.