More sustainable redox flow batteries with vanillin


Researchers at TU Graz University of Technology in Austria have developed a redox flow battery that uses conventional vanillin as the electrolyte. They've already patented the separation and refinement process and have published the test results in Angewandte Chemie.

The flavoring substance vanillin is one of the few fine chemicals that is extracted from lignin. The researchers, led by Stefan Spirk from the Institute for Bio-based Products and Paper Technology at TU Graz University of Technology, have refined vanillin into a redox-active material with the help of mild and green chemistry. They did not use toxic and expensive metal catalysts, which can be used in flow batteries.

The process works at room temperatures and with common household chemicals.

“We can buy it quite conventionally. If you want, you can even buy it in the supermarket,” explains Spirk. “We can also use a simple reaction to separate it from lignin, which in turn is produced in large quantities as waste product in paper production.”

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The academics now want to commercialize the technology, as the process is highly scalable and suitable for continuous production. “The plan is to hook up our plant to a pulp mill and isolate the vanillin from the lignin that is left over as waste,” Spirk said, adding that the team has begun talks with German paper manufacturer Mondi. “Whatever is not needed can subsequently flow back into the regular cycle and be used energetically as usual.”

The scientists now need to test the technology in real conditions. They are looking for an energy supplier that wants to incorporate redox flow technologies into its infrastructure.
“We can keep the value chain – ranging from the procurement of raw materials and components to the generation of electricity – on a regional basis,” said Spirk. “Enable storage capacities of up to 800 MWh, relieve the strain on the electricity grid and make an important contribution to the green energy storage. revolution.”

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