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The Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) says a team of university scientists and engineers has demonstrated a new flow battery that could help make energy storage of renewables, such as wind and solar power, more economical and reliable.

SEAS says the metal-free flow battery relies on the electrochemistry of inexpensive, small organic molecules called quinones, which are similar to molecules that store energy in plants and animals, rather than on costly metals or chemicals.

"The intermittent renewables storage problem is the biggest barrier to getting most of our power from the sun and the wind," comments team leader Prof. Michael J. Aziz. "A safe and economical flow battery could play a huge role in our transition off fossil fuels to renewable electricity. I'm excited that we have a good shot at it."

Aziz says the next steps in the project will be to further test and optimize the system that has been demonstrated and bring it toward a commercial scale. By the end of the three-year development period, project collaborator Sustainable Innovations LLC expects to deploy demonstration versions of the organic flow battery contained in a unit the size of a horse trailer.

Under the OPEN 2012 program, the Harvard team received funding from the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E) to develop the grid-scale battery and plans to work with ARPA-E to catalyze further technological and market breakthroughs over the next several years.

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