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Images of particles made from a promising battery cathode material called NMC

Storing Electricity in the Form of Chemical Bonds: An Alkaline Exchange Membrane Unitized Regenerative Fuel Cell

TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy

Thomas Jaramillo and Curtis Frank, chemical engineering

One way to deal with the intermittent nature of solar power is by storing some of it for use when output drops. This research seeks to develop a type of fuel cell that can store electricity by producing hydrogen and oxygen from water, and later produce power when the molecules are allowed to recombine to make water. High costs and low performance have kept such devices from commercialization for two decades. This is principally due to challenges involving membrane materials and catalysts, particularly the use of precious metals.

The researchers hope to develop an alkaline-based device using a new membrane material and new catalysts not made from precious metals. If they succeed, they will create the first prototype of this kind of device, which could also address the intermittency problem faced by wind power, as well as solar.