Researchers at PNNL and Proton OnSite are developing the first prototype of an entirely new technology they're calling a "flow cell." The device will be a cross between a flow battery and an electrolyzer, which uses electricity to split water molecules. The technology offers flexibility by having two modes of operation: either creating hydrogen to power fuel cells for cars or buildings, or storing energy to balance electricity demand and supply on the power grid.
The flow cell will combine components of two established technologies: a proton exchange membrane electrolyzer and a redox flow battery. Combining the two technologies takes advantage of both of their best qualities. The net result is a highly efficient process, with up to 80 percent of the energy initially used still being present in the final products of hydrogen and electricity.
Proton OnSite Research & Development Vice President Katherine Ayers is the project's lead researcher and PNNL materials scientist Wei Wang is the project co-lead. ARPA-E awarded the project a total of about $2.5 million over three years, with PNNL and Proton Onsite each receiving approximately $1.25M.