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Too Much of a Good Thing? Assessing Performance Tradeoffs of Two-Electron Compounds for Redox Flow Batteries

submitted on 16.01.2021, 20:02 and posted on 18.01.2021, 12:59 by Bertrand Neyhouse, Alexis Fenton Jr, Fikile Brushett

Engineering redox-active compounds to support stable multi-electron transfer is an emerging strategy for enhancing the energy density and reducing the cost of redox flow batteries (RFBs). However, when sequential electron transfers occur at disparate redox potentials, increases in electrolyte capacity are accompanied by decreases in voltaic efficiency, restricting the viable design space. To understand these performance tradeoffs for two-electron compounds specifically, we apply theoretical models to investigate the influence of the electron transfer mechanism and redox-active species properties on galvanostatic processes. First, we model chronopotentiometry at a planar electrode to understand how the electrochemical response and associated concentration distributions depend on thermodynamic, kinetic, and mass transport factors. Second, using a zero-dimensional galvanostatic charge / discharge model, we assess the effects of these key descriptors on performance for a single half-cell. Specifically, we examine how different properties (i.e., average of the two redox potentials, difference between the two redox potentials, charging rate, mass transfer rate, and comproportionation rate) affect the electrode polarization and voltaic efficiency. Finally, we extend the galvanostatic model to include two-electron compounds in both half-cells, demonstrating compounding voltage losses for a full cell. These results evince limitations to the applicability of multi-electron compounds—as such, we suggest new directions for molecular and systems engineering that may improve the prospects of these materials within RFBs.


Collaborative Research: Establishing Design Principles for Molecular Engineering of High Concentration Redox Electrolytes

Directorate for Engineering

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Graduate Research Fellowship Program

Directorate for Education & Human Resources

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Massachusetts Institute of Technology


United States

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Declaration of Conflict of Interest

No conflict of interest.