«We are developing more efficient components»

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Project Team in the lab at PSI, from left to right: Fabio Oldenburg (PhD student), Aaron Schneider (lab assistant), Lorenz Gubler (project leader), David Vonlanthen (scientific collaborator). © researcher / institutions

Lorenz Gubler and his team from the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) have received a "Discovery" grant as part of the BRIDGE programme. Lorenz Gubler and his team are developing cheaper and more efficient components for redox flow batteries. The project manager hopes that these technologies will find a place in solar or wind farms. Interview.

What technologies are you developing?
Our teams are working on improving components for redox flow batteries. These types of batteries employ a so-called oxidation-reduction reaction to store and generate electricity. The batteries will play an important role in regulating power grids fed by renewable energies. Because renewables are intrinsically intermittent, they require efficient storage technologies such as redox batteries, which can store electricity for six to eight hours.

What is novel about your technology compared with the current state of the art?
We are developing more efficient, less expensive components for these types of batteries, in particular, the membrane that separates the positive and negative compartments. The polymeric materials used up to now weren’t developed specifically for these batteries and were relatively expensive. Our ultimate goal is to adapt our new membrane technology to an industrial process to be able to provide manufacturers with redox batteries.

When will you be commercialising these batteries?
We still have development work to do to achieve the technological maturity needed to market this material. before the technology is mature enough for commercialisation. We are already in close contact with industrial partners and are evaluating different options, including creating a start-up. We find ourselves in a competitive environment and the competition is international. Our components must not only be cheap and efficient in the laboratory, but also during implementation of the battery in an actual energy storage facility. That’s not the same thing.

As a researcher, is it difficult to think like an entrepreneur?
It’s a completely new and different world. I think that it provides an excellent opportunity to come to grips with the complex stages of technology transfer. We are getting support from the BRIDGE Discovery programme and it is still early days, but we have already learned a lot.

Last modification 18.01.2019

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Contact

Lorenz Gubler
Labor für Elektrochemie
Paul Scherrer Institut
5232 Villigen

Tel: +41 56 310 26 73

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BRIDGE Programm

Christian Brunner
Program Manager

Tel: +41 31 308 23 67

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