Uses of Vanadium: Vanadium Redox Flow Battery (VRFB)
A crucial part of the future of renewable, clean energy, Vanadium Redox Flow Batteries are a type of rechargeable battery that is particularly suited for community-scale green energy storage.
VRFB is just one of the many uses of vanadium, which can be extracted along with other metals from titanium dioxide waste, power station ash and refinery residues.
Today, we’re taking a closer look at some of the key benefits of VRFB and how they could be the answer to cleaner, greener and sustainable energy.
How does a VRFB work?
The batteries use vanadium ions in particular oxidation states to store chemical potential energy, and by altering the vanadium between oxidation states, they release some of this energy as electricity.
As excess electricity is being generated, VRFBs use the opposite mechanism to store electricity. The batteries are particularly suitable for green energy storage into a power grid or ‘behind the meter’ high power users.
But, how does this tie in with renewable energy?
A core feature of VRFB that helps it stand out from other batteries is its decades-long operating life.
As the vanadium electrolyte in different states is stored in separate parts of the battery – separated by a proton exchange membrane – energy can flow between the electrolyte on either side without degradation of the material.
In short, this means that there’s no chemical change and allows the battery to operate indefinitely without losing activity.
A safe option.
VRFBs are also less likely to overheat and catch fire than traditional batteries, because 50% of the electrolyte is made from water, making it non-flammable.
So, even in cases of damage, intense heat, high pressure or short-circuiting, the battery is unlikely to catch fire. Of course, some heat may be discharged from a VRFB, but not at a level that is unsafe.
Can be discharged for a long time.
As part of a wider energy mix, VRFBs can provide large-scale energy to multiple users over hours of demand, without the need for large banks of cells.
As there is no degradation, 100% of the vanadium can be reused once the battery is removed. This has led to some discussion in the industry about leasing arrangements for the material, rather than a pure sale, to reduce upfront battery costs.
A key part of our renewable future.
While lithium-based batteries are well suited to consumer electronics and electric vehicles, their lifetimes can be limited. As discussed earlier, VRFBs charge and discharge cycles without wearing out. This is an important factor when matching a varied set of energy demands.
By relying on a vanadium electrolyte solution held in storage tanks, vanadium redox flow batteries can store energy from renewable sources, including solar, wind or wave power, and release it when required.
At GSAe, our core technology supports this future by recovering vanadium from ‘secondary sources’, such as refinery residues (heavy ends, vacuum residue catalysts etc), ash created in oil-fired power stations and desalination plants, and TiO2 waste.
This is a more environmentally-beneficial method to traditional means as it recovers the vanadium (and other metals) from a source that has already been extracted and would otherwise be wasted in landfill. This does not replace other methods of production in terms of scale, but adds to and improves raw material usage.