Vanadium redox battery

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Vanadium redox battery
Specific energy 10–20 Wh/kg (36–72 J/g)
Energy density 15–25 Wh/L (54–65 kJ/L)
Charge/discharge efficiency 75–80%<.[1]
Time durability 10–20 years
Cycle durability >10,000 cycles
Nominal cell voltage 1.15–1.55 V

The vanadium redox (and redox flow) battery (VRB) is a type of rechargeable flow battery that employs vanadium ions in different oxidation states to store chemical potential energy.[2] The vanadium redox battery exploits the ability of vanadium to exist in solution in four different oxidation states, and uses this property to make a battery that has just one electroactive element instead of two. For several reasons, including their relatively bulky size, most vanadium batteries are currently used for Grid energy storage, such as being attached to power plants or electrical grids.

Building on earlier research on flow batteries,[3] the possibility of creating a vanadium battery was explored variously by Pissoort,[4] NASA researchers, and Pellegri and Spaziante.[5] The first successful demonstration of the all-vanadium redox flow battery employing vanadium in a solution of sulfuric acid in each half was by Maria Skyllas-Kazacos and co-workers at the University of New South Wales in the 1980s.[6] Their design used sulfuric acid electrolytes, and was patented by the University of New South Wales in Australia in 1986.[7]

Organizations involved in funding and developing vanadium redox batteries include UniEnergy Technologies[8] and Ashlawn Energy[9] in the United States, Renewable Energy Dynamics Technology[10] in Ireland, Gildemeister AG (formerly Cellstrom GmbH in Austria) in Germany,[11] Cellennium in Thailand, Rongke Power and Prudent Energy in China,[12] Sumitomo in Japan and H2, Inc. in South Korea.[13]

The main advantages of the vanadium redox battery are that it can offer almost unlimited capacity simply by using larger storage tanks, it can be left completely discharged for long periods with no ill effects, it can be recharged simply by replacing the electrolyte if no power source is available to charge it, and if the electrolytes are accidentally mixed the battery suffers no permanent damage. The main disadvantages with vanadium redox technology are a relatively poor energy-to-volume ratio, although recent research at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has doubled energy density, and the system complexity in comparison with standard storage batteries.


Diagram of a Vanadium Flow Battery

A vanadium redox battery consists of an assembly of power cells in which the two electrolytes are separated by a proton exchange membrane. Both electrolytes are vanadium based, the electrolyte in the positive half-cells contains VO2+ and VO2+ ions, the electrolyte in the negative half-cells, V3+ and V2+ ions. The electrolytes may be prepared by any of several processes, including electrolytically dissolving vanadium pentoxide (V2O5) in sulfuric acid (H2SO4). The solution remains strongly acidic in use.

In vanadium flow batteries, both half-cells are additionally connected to storage tanks and pumps so that very large volumes of the electrolytes can be circulated through the cell. This circulation of liquid electrolytes is somewhat cumbersome and does restrict the use of vanadium flow batteries in mobile applications, effectively confining them to large fixed installations.

When the vanadium battery is charged, the VO2+ ions in the positive half-cell are converted to VO2+ ions when electrons are removed from the positive terminal of the battery. Similarly in the negative half-cell, electrons are introduced converting the V3+ ions into V2+. During discharge this process is reversed and results in a typical open-circuit voltage of 1.41 V at 25 °C.

Other useful properties of vanadium flow batteries are their very fast response to changing loads and their extremely large overload capacities. Studies by the University of New South Wales have shown that they can achieve a response time of under half a millisecond for a 100 % load change, and allowed overloads of as much as 400 % for 10 seconds. The response time is mostly limited by the electrical equipment. Sulfuric acid-based vanadium batteries only work between about 10 to 40 °C. Below that temperature range, the ion-infused sulfuric acid crystallizes.[14] Round trip efficiency in practical applications is around 65–75 %.[15]

Proposed improvements[edit]

Second generation vanadium redox batteries (vanadium/bromine) may approximately double the energy density and increase the temperature range in which the battery can operate.

Despite the traditional pumping requirements, one company has focused on electric vehicle applications, using rapid replacement of electrolyte to refuel the battery.[16]

Energy density[edit]

Current production vanadium redox batteries achieve an energy density of about 25 Wh/kg (90 kJ/kg) of electrolyte. More recent research at UNSW indicates that the use of precipitation inhibitors can increase the density to about 35 Wh/kg (126 kJ/kg), with even higher densities made possible by controlling the electrolyte temperature. This energy density is quite low as compared to other rechargeable battery types (e.g., lead–acid, 30–40 Wh/kg (108–144 kJ/kg); and lithium ion, 80–200 Wh/kg (288–720 kJ/kg)).

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Chemical Technology claim to have built a prototype for an improved cell stating "We can now increase the mileage four or fivefold, to approximately that of lithium-ion batteries,".[17] This same article makes a very optimistic claim that vanadium flow batteries can be recharged at a gas station by simply filling the vehicle tanks with fresh electrolytes.


The extremely large capacities possible from vanadium redox batteries make them well suited to use in large power storage applications such as helping to average out the production of highly variable generation sources such as wind or solar power, helping generators cope with large surges in demand or leveling out supply/demand at a transmission constrained region.

The limited self-discharge characteristics of vanadium redox batteries make them useful in applications where the batteries must be stored for long periods of time with little maintenance while maintaining a ready state. This has led to their adoption in some military electronics, such as the sensor components of the GATOR mine system.

Their extremely rapid response times also make them superbly well suited to UPS type applications, where they can be used to replace lead–acid batteries and even diesel generators. Also the fast response time makes them well-suited for frequency regulation. Economically neither the UPS or frequency regulation applications of the battery are currently sustainable alone, but rather the battery is able to layer these applications with other uses to capitalize on various sources of revenue. Also, these capabilities make Vanadium redox batteries an effective "all-in-one" solution for microgrids that depend on reliable operations, frequency regulation and have a need for load shifting (from either high renewable penetration, a highly variable load or desire to optimize generator efficiency through time-shifting dispatch).


There are several notable currently installed vanadium batteries:

  • A 1.5 MW UPS system in a semiconductor fabrication plant in Japan.
  • A 600 kW, six hour system, installed by Prudent Energy in Oxnard, California, USA.[18]
  • A 275 kW output balancer in use on a wind power project in the Tomari Wind Hills of Hokkaido.
  • A 200 kW, 800 kW·h (2.9 GJ) output leveler in use at the Huxley Hill Wind Farm on King Island, Tasmania.
  • A 250 kW, 2 MW·h (7.2 GJ) load leveler in use at Castle Valley, Utah.
  • Two 5-kW units installed in St. Petersburg, Florida, under the auspices of USF's Power Center for Utility Explorations.
  • A 100 kWh (360 MJ) unit supplied with 18 kW stacks manufactured by Cellstrom (Austria) has been installed in Vierakker (Gelderland, The Netherlands) as part of an integrated energy concept called 'FotonenBoer'/'PhotonFarmer' (InnovationNetwork/Foundation Courage)
  • A 400 kW, 500 kWh (1.8 GJ) output balancer in use on a solar power project in the Bilacenge Village in Sumba Island, Indonesia.
  • A 50 kW, 100 kWh (360 MJ) peak shaving for manufacturing facility in Gongju, South Korea.[19]
  • A 5 kW, 60 kWh unit integrated with photovoltaic generation at University of Évora, Portugal.[20]
  • A 100 kW, 1.26 MWh installation is planned for the island of Gigha, Scotland.[21]
  • A 5 MW, 10 MWH (20 MWH) system at the Woniushi wind power farm was connected to the Liaoning Power Grid, China, on 23 May 2013 [1].
  • 1 MW, 5 MWh installed by Sumitomo Electric Industries in Yokohama
  • 100 kW, 600 kWh unit, installed by Prudent Energy & ABB in Kolarovo, Slovakia.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Vanadium Battery Group University of New South Wales
  2. ^ Laurence Knight (14 Jun 2014). "Vanadium: The metal that may soon be powering your neighbourhood". BBC. Retrieved 2 Mar 2015. 
  3. ^ An earlier German Patent on a titanium chloride flow battery was registered and granted in July 1954 to Dr. Walter Kangro, but most of the development of flow batteries was carried out by NASA researchers in the 1970s.
  4. ^ P. A. Pissoort, in FR Patent 754065 (1933)
  5. ^ A. Pelligri and P. M. Spaziante, in GB Patent 2030349 (1978), to Oronzio de Nori Impianti Elettrochimici S.p.A.
  6. ^ M. Rychcik and M. Skyllas-Kazacos, J. Power Sources, 22 (1988) 59–67
  7. ^ M. Skyllas-Kazacos, M. Rychcik and R. Robins, in AU Patent 575247 (1986), to Unisearch Ltd.
  8. ^ Steve Wilhelm (3 Jul 2014). "Liquid battery the size of a truck, will give utilities a charge". Puget Sound Business Journal. Retrieved 2 May 2015. 
  9. ^ BILL HAGSTRAND (23 Aug 2013). "Vanadium redox: powering up local communities". Crain's Cleavland Business. Retrieved 2 May 2015. 
  10. ^ "US clean-tech investments leap to US$1.1bn. Where's Ireland at?". Silicon Republic. 11 Apr 2011. Retrieved 2 May 2015. 
  11. ^ "a+f acquires majority stake in Cellstrom". DMG Mori Seiki AG. 16 April 2010. Retrieved 21 June 2014. 
  12. ^ Jeff St. John (2 Mar 2010). "Made in China: Prudent Energy Lands $22M For Flow Batteries". GigaOm. Retrieved 2 May 2015. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (17 Mar 2011). "Electric Grid Reliability: Increasing Energy Storage in Vanadium Redox Batteries by 70 Percent". Science Daily. Retrieved 2 Mar 2015. 
  15. ^ VRB Power Systems FAQ Archived 13 February 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ "Electric Vehicle Refuelling System (EVRS) used in conjunction with Vanadium Redox Flow Technology". REDT Energy Storage. 
  17. ^ "Improved Redox Flow Batteries For Electric Cars". ScienceDaily/Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. 13 October 2009. Retrieved 21 June 2014. 
  18. ^ "Peak Shaving and Demand Charge Avoidance: Prudent Energy Vanadium Redox Battery Energy Storage System (VRB-ESS®)". Energy Storage Association, ESA. Retrieved 20 July 2014. 
  19. ^ "Samyoung Vanadium Redox Flow Battery Project". H2, Inc. 
  20. ^ "Successful Installation of Vanadium Storage System in Collaboration with FP7 and the European Commission". REDT Energy Storage. 
  21. ^ "£3.6m from DECC to Develop 1.26MWh Utility Scale Vanadium Redox Flow Battery". REDT Energy Storage. 

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