A design for a vanadium oxidation reduction flow battery (VRFB) developed by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) fell into the hands of a Chinese company that has since become the world’s largest producer of VRFBs. The United States, which holds the patent and has invested $15 million in taxpayer dollars in the development, reportedly does not have the facilities to manufacture the new VRFBs, record A description of the special history of one of the most important developments in the field of energy.
The story began when PNNL began searching for one in 2006 Vanadium oxidation liquid flow battery theoretical feasibility. Then, until 2012, the United States supported development with $30 million (950-1 billion forints at the then exchange rate) through various federal support funds. Even six years later, the project’s chief scientist, Gary Yang, requested permission to manufacture and sell the building. Permission was granted, which led to the formation of UniEnergy Technologies, which was named the ReFlex battery.
The technology Its essence is a process in which anodes and cathodes are placed in a special mixture of acids and electrolytes. The choice of the material itself is not new, vanadium batteries for liquid flow have been produced since 1976. The original process is also very efficient, it takes advantage of the property of vanadium containing many oxides, that is, vanadium atoms can contact oxygen atoms in many ways. All this results in minimal self-discharge, and the batteries can be easily restarted and do not drain on their own.
However, PNNL’s development of the proprietary solution resulted in a battery twice as powerful as other vanadium-based cells. Another advantage of their innovation is that in their solution, the electrolyte mixture contained in the battery does not decompose, as in other batteries, and can be charged and discharged indefinitely for up to 30 years. Refrigerator-sized batteries can be integrated into homes connected to solar energy and reduce demand on the power grid.
Superb liquid-flow vanadium-reduction battery
However, the story did not become a success story despite US government support. In 2017, NPR gave an interview to Yang, who complained that UniEnergy was unable to find US investors. He said they were discouraged from manufacturing due to the potentially long payback period. Yang turned to China and found willing investors in a company called Dalian Rongqi Power Co., Ltd., which moved production to Dalian, a city on a peninsula on the Yellow Sea between Beijing and South Korea.
Production has even begun, with products patented by US federal research grants stating that foreign production cannot begin until a certain number of devices have been manufactured and sold in the United States,
The NPRIn an interview with Yang, he admitted that he didn’t, as he sold quite a few batteries in the US, all of them made in China. The license was later transferred to a Netherlands-based company called Vanadis Power, which said it plans to manufacture ReFlex batteries in China and later in Germany, and may expand to the United States in the future.
Great find, dirty bureaucracy
The United State Regulations make clear that transferring a US government license requires Uncle Sam’s approval after officials are satisfied that production will not go abroad. However, according to NPR, the Department of Energy made the biggest mistake here: A US government employee transferred the license from UniEnergy to Vanadis after a few hour-and-a-half emails.
The Department of Energy (DoE) declined to comment on the investigation, but after NPR requested, the agency simply revoked the manufacturing transfer license. “If the Department of Energy determines that an owner or licensee in the final stage of a DOE-funded patent is in violation of U.S. manufacturing obligations, the Department of Energy will explore all legal options,” the department told NPR.
It’s not clear if revoking the DOE license will result in Rongke stopping manufacturing batteries, as it is for the Vanadis license. But according to the registry article, for now it appears that revocation of the license may have little effect: German energy company RWE said in a blog post in May that China is preparing an 800MW lithium-free battery farm in Dalian that uses VRFBs, which Rongke and another partner in Vanadis, Bolong New Materials, They Build. According to the Vanadis website, Bolong is the exclusive manufacturer of the mixed acid electrolyte used in ReFlex batteries.
Vanadis still claims on its website that it has exclusive rights to sell the ReFlex battery in “Europe, Africa and the Middle East”. It is not clear if it has the right to manufacture and sell VRFB batteries in Asia, or whether its license in the United States has been revoked.