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In situ NMR metrology reveals reaction mechanisms in redox flow batteries

AuthorsZhao, E. W.; Liu, T.; Jónsson, E.; Lee, J.; Temprano, I.; Jethwa, R. B.; Wang, A.; Smith, H.; Carretero-González, Javier ; Song, Q.; Grey, C. P.
Issue Date2020
PublisherSpringer Nature
CitationNature 579: 224-228 (2020)
AbstractLarge-scale energy storage is becoming increasingly critical to balancing renewable energy production and consumption. Organic redox flow batteries, made from inexpensive and sustainable redox-active materials, are promising storage technologies that are cheaper and less environmentally hazardous than vanadium-based batteries, but they have shorter lifetimes and lower energy density. Thus, fundamental insight at the molecular level is required to improve performance. Here we report two in situ nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) methods of studying redox flow batteries, which are applied to two redox-active electrolytes: 2,6-dihydroxyanthraquinone (DHAQ) and 4,4′-((9,10-anthraquinone-2,6-diyl)dioxy) dibutyrate (DBEAQ). In the first method, we monitor the changes in the H NMR shift of the liquid electrolyte as it flows out of the electrochemical cell. In the second method, we observe the changes that occur simultaneously in the positive and negative electrodes in the full electrochemical cell. Using the bulk magnetization changes (observed via the H NMR shift of the water resonance) and the line broadening of the H shifts of the quinone resonances as a function of the state of charge, we measure the potential differences of the two single-electron couples, identify and quantify the rate of electron transfer between the reduced and oxidized species, and determine the extent of electron delocalization of the unpaired spins over the radical anions. These NMR techniques enable electrolyte decomposition and battery self-discharge to be explored in real time, and show that DHAQ is decomposed electrochemically via a reaction that can be minimized by limiting the voltage used on charging. We foresee applications of these NMR methods in understanding a wide range of redox processes in flow and other electrochemical systems.
Publisher version (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41586-020-2081-7
Identifiersdoi: 10.1038/s41586-020-2081-7
issn: 0028-0836
e-issn: 1476-4687
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