Battery, vanadium redox, metal/ plastic/ graphite felt, Professor Maria Skyllas Kazacos / Dr Rui Hong, University of New South Wales, Australia, 1994
We need to store electricity for one of two reasons: we don't want to use it at the same time as we generate it; or we want to use it to power a vehicle or a portable device. Many different types of battery have been developed for these purposes, but all have their drawbacks. One important problem with rechargeable batteries is poor efficiency: less electricity can be drawn from them than is used to charge them.
In 1984 at the University of NSW, Dr Maria Skyllas-Kazacos began to research the possibility of using solutions of vanadium (a metallic element) to store electricity. Her aim was to develop a new battery.
The research soon showed promise, but the development of the battery took many years and a huge amount of human energy. The R&D team persisted because their tests showed the battery could be very efficient and could have a variety of applications.
The developers tested a wide range of membrane and electrode materials and developed a new type of conducting plastic. They designed some components of the battery and selected others. They tested different ways of assembling the components.
After years of refining the components, and making and testing batteries, the patented technology was licensed to several companies. The first to license the battery was Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation and its subsidiary, Kashima-Kita Electric Power Corporation. They developed large batteries for use in load levelling: storing electricity generated in times of low demand and releasing it for use in times of high demand. The vanadium battery could also be used to store solar or wind energy, which are not generated continuously, and in vehicles, if charged vanadium solutions could be obtained from service stations.
The vanadium battery is now being manufactured in Japan by Sumitomo Electric Industries and is being exported around the world.
Debbie Rudder, Curator
Designed by Professor Maria Skyllas-Kazacos and Dr Rui Hong. Due to lack of funds, the design was not optimised for the application, but utilised parts designed for a battery used in a house in Thailand to demonstrate remote area power supply applications.
Made by the Vanadium Battery Development Group.
Used from 1994 to 1997 off road in a golf cart. The battery was placed on the back shelf of the cart, the tanks under the seat, and an inverter to power the AC pumps (DC pumps were not available) in the glove compartment. Initially, the electrolyte used was 1.8 molar vanadium sulphate in sulphuric acid. Using 40 litres of each electrolyte, this gave a range of 20 km. With use of an improved electrolyte, 3 molar vanadium sulphate in sulphuric acid, the range was increased to 35 km (in 1997).