Institute wins state grant for 2 projects

April 16, 2010 | News

New York State’s energy research agency has awarded $350,000 to the CUNY Energy Institute, supporting two projects underway at the Institute to develop innovative and inexpensive methods of storing energy—including one that could have a major impact on the growth of hybrid electric vehicles.

The grant, announced Wednesday by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), is part of an $8 million package awarded to 19 universities and companies around the state to help develop or commercialize cutting-edge energy storage projects. NYSERDA said it chose projects with both economic and environmental advantages—those “that will strengthen New York’s standing as a national leader in the energy storage industry and help build New York’s clean energy economy for the future.”

The state funds will support the CUNY Energy Institute’s development of a potentially revolutionary version of nickel-zinc battery technology—a project that could provide the hybrid electric vehicle industry with a rechargeable battery that is less expensive, more eco-friendly and safer than those now in use.

“The problem with nickel-zinc in hybrid electric vehicle applications is that it requires frequent recharging, which degrades battery life,” said the institute’s director, Dr. Sanjoy Banerjee. By developing a method of controlling the flow and composition of the battery fluid, Institute researchers have already observed much higher lifetimes in accelerated testing than any other nickel-zinc batteries now on the market. “To date, we have obtained more than 1,300 deep discharge cycles in laboratory test cells, with little capacity decay,” Banerjee said. “That is an improvement of more than 400 per cent over what has been previously demonstrated for nickel-zinc, and even better than lithium ion batteries, which last threer or 4 times longer.”

Banerjee said that the implications of a successful “flow-assisted” nickel-zinc battery are enormous. “The main roadblock to widespread adoption of hybrid technology is the lack of an acceptable battery,” he said.

The other Energy Institute project included in the NYSERDA grant is a capacitor system that could be used to improve power management in conventional energy sources ranging from coal-fired boilers to nuclear plants—as well as in converting and storing energy from renewable sources such as wind and solar power.

The state grants support the New York Battery and Energy Storage Technology Consortium (NY-BEST), an industry-focused coalition working to further the development of an advanced battery and energy storage sector in New York State’s economy.

“Creating more advanced energy storage technologies is essential for us to achieve substantial reductions in our greenhouse gas emissions and energy use,” said
Francis J. Murray, Jr., NYSERDA president and CEO: “The proposals we are funding will not only help meet our energy needs, but will demonstrate New York’s leadership in energy technology, stimulate world-class research and development, and commercialize products that will help build a clean energy economy and create jobs for the future.”