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Constituent of vanilla becomes a redox-active electrolyte for batteries


October 12, 2020
By Anthony Capkun


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TU Graz researcher Stefan Spirk has found a way to replace liquid electrolytes in redox flow batteries with vanillin. Photo © Lunghammer-TU Graz.

October 12, 2020 – Researchers at TU Graz (Graz University of Technology) have found a way to convert the aromatic substance vanillin—a compound which is the essential constituent of vanilla—into a redox-active electrolyte material for liquid batteries.

“It is ground-breaking in the field of sustainable energy storage technology,” says Stefan Spirk from the Institute of Bioproducts and Paper Technology. He and his team have succeeded in making redox-flow batteries more environmentally friendly by replacing their core element—the liquid electrolyte, which is mostly made up of heavy metals or rare earth elements—with vanillin, which they separate from lignin.

Lignin is available in large quantities as waste product in paper production, notes Spirk.

The researchers have patented the separation and refining process, and wish to commercialize the technology. However, it has yet to be tested in real operation. They are hopeful energy supply companies will adopt this new technology.

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