The CUNY Energy Institute has been able to attain significant resources to provide the practical research needed to develop commercial products to advance sustainable energy technologies with low carbon footprints. The Energy Institute’s current research agenda includes developing a low cost rechargeable battery for energy storage, in particular zinc-nickel oxide flow batteries, which cost half as much as nickel-metal hydride batteries and have energy densities that are twice as high. Also research supported by ARPA E, DOE, and NYSERDA has begun on a significantly lower cost battery consisting of zinc manganese dioxide. Currently, a 3 kWh Flow-Assisted Nickel-Zinc Battery has been built and tested at the CUNY Energy Institute and is being scaled up with support from DOE, Con Ed, and NYSERDA to a 200 kWh capacity. The target use for batteries assembled from the 200 KWh module would be transmission and distribution systems capable of deferral and peak shaving. The less expensive flow assisted zinc manganese dioxide are being scaled to 50 kWh modules which will be used to firm the power supplied from intermittent renewable sources such as solar and wind.
Battery research targets applications seen on the near-term horizon and not well-suited to any existing battery technology. The 3 kWhr Flow-Assisted Nickel-Zinc Battery built and tested at the CUNY Energy Institute is intended to fill a market that will emerge in the coming years: electrical storage on the grid scale. Advanced rechargeable batteries for building or utility scales are necessary for solar and wind, as well as evolution of the smart grid or “energy internet.” Energy storage technologies will enable us to increase production of domestic renewable energy sources, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and reduce our carbon footprint. The battery technologies being developed at the Energy Institute offer viables alternative to the national focus on hydrogen for energy storage and distribution by proposing to capitalize on the enhancement and development of the infrastructure for electricity production, storage and distribution.
The CUNY Energy Institute, in partnership with Rechargeable Battery Corporation (RBC) and Ultralife Corporation, is developing and constructing a water-based flow-assisted battery for grid-scale energy storage. This novel battery starts with the same low-cost materials found in disposable consumer-grade alkaline batteries, namely zinc and manganese dioxide, and then transforms the chemistry into a long-lasting, fully-rechargeable system. The result of this effort will be a 25kW rechargeable system that lasts for 5,000 cycles, costs under $100/kWh, and shows strong potential for scaling to megawatt-hour levels in grid-scale electric energy storage applications.
The CUNY Energy Institute has been developing Metacapacitors™ , a novel electrically insulating material for a new breed of capacitors that increases the capacitor’s storage capability and allows for low-cost, efficient grid interfaces for applications from solid-state lighting to solar photovoltaics. The thin film capacitor can be printed in rolls similar to newspaper printing. Transistors are sealed into these capacitor films to form Metacapacitors™. The resulting Metacapacitors™ are a flexible fabric for electrical power conversion. The CUNY Energy Institute’s novel research on Metacapacitors,™ led by Dr. Stephen O’Brien, received a grant of $1,568,330 from the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). The prestigious ARPA-E grants were awarded to innovative projects that will help the US deploy next generation clean energy technologies.