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Blue Dye-and-Water-Battery Wins $4 Million ARPA-E Grant


Stanford PhD student and entrepreneur Colin Wessels turned his thesis into a Palo Alto, California startup called Alveo Energy. Alevo’s goal is to develop and commercialize a battery made out of water and Prussian blue dye. Wessels’ intention is to create a batter that is long lasting, low cost, and might solve critical energy storage issues for the power grid.

The company is young and currently has a skeleton crew. Wessels and his co-founder Robert Huggins work in a small office space and plan to add four new employees over the next few months. They would like to grow their staff considerably by 2016.

Alveo has won a $4 million grant the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program, making it one of the largest grants awarded out of the 66 funded projects.

Alveo makes their battery by taking Prussian blue dye and adding iron and copper to it in order to refine the battery structure to use a water-based electrolyte. Prussian blue dye is electrochromic, in other words, changes color when a burst of charge is applied. Alveo’s batteries are large, about four times larger than a car battery, and intended to be stationary. They will be developed into a 1 kilowatt, 50 kilogram prototype.

The real genius of this battery is the low cost. Alveo can construct the battery for under $100 per kilowatt hour. For comparison’s sake, lead acid batteries, typically cheaper than lithium batteries, cost between $150 and $200 per kilowatt hour, and lithium batteries are considerably more expensive. Because of its low cost, Alveo’s battery may be used in many scenarios, including the power grid and storage for solar and wind energy.

A commercialized version of what Alveo is currently developing is at least three years in the future, possibly longer.

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