The “Gelion” battery, a new storage battery that can operate under extreme stress conditions, has been called a game-changer for the increasing uptake of renewable energy in Australia.
The battery uses a specialised zinc-bromide gel technology designed to overcome the limitations of traditional lithium ion and lead acid batteries.
Invented at the University of Sydney’s Sydney Nano and the School of Chemistry by professor Thomas Maschmeye, it addresses supply, capacity and safety constraints.
“The zinc-bromide battery chemistry differs from conventional ones by being able to charge to 100 per cent and discharge to zero over a long duration,” Maschmeye told the ABC News.
“We are able to run at a high temperature — 50 degrees not a problem without cooling, and never catch fire. In fact, the inside of the batteries help to put fires out.”
The Gelion battery can withstand temperatures of more than 600 degrees, without catching fire. This removes the need for expensive auxiliary equipment such as fire suppression and air conditioning systems, bringing running costs down.
It also means the stationary battery technology is suitable for remote outback conditions, especially in the mining and agricultural sectors.
Zinc-bromide is conventionally used in large “flow” batteries, unsuitable for mass production. The research team have reformatted this chemistry, converting it to a more versatile gel formulation.
“It’s every scientist’s dream,” University of Sydney research and development manager, Dr Zeynep Adali said.
“We work hard with the motivations of contributing to the world and its future, and actually seeing it happening is very rewarding,” he said.
The technology is about to enter the pilot manufacturing stage.
The production line will be established at Battery Energy, a local manufacturer with over 30 years’ experience based in Fairfield.
Full-scale operations to supply the Gelion battery for the domestic market are expected by the end of next year, managing director Gaby Peimer told the ABC News.
“Our factory will be scaled up and employment will obviously be an added benefit,” Peimer said.
Principal technical development officer Michael Glenn said the technology has huge potential.
“What we’d like to be able to contribute is our knowledge in upscaling the battery production and really economising that process,” Glenn told the ABC News.
“One of the really intelligent things is that it utilises the infrastructure of the lead acid battery, to produce a novel battery in a shorter timeframe, that’s more cost effective and also high performing. It’s also fully recyclable, which supports the circular economy.”
The stationary battery storage market is tipped to grow exponentially from its current value of $100 billion.
Special advisor to the federal government on Low Emissions Technology, Dr Alan Finkel, told the ABC News there was increasing “enthusiasm for storage in the minds and pocketbooks of investors.”
“As we build up penetration of solar and wind, and other forms of generation retire, we will need to increasingly support solar and wind with storage,” Finkel said.
“Every time we spawn a new technological product in the low emissions technology space, it’s export opportunities, it’s domestic opportunities and it’s jobs.”