The University of Strathclyde is leading a research project aimed at reducing the cost and improving the performance of battery technologies, for use in developing countries and emerging economies.

The project, which has received a grant of £488k from the Faraday Institution, will focus on developing technology which could accelerate the uptake of batteries and promote inclusive, reliable, affordable energy access, to enable the clean energy transition in emerging economies.

More than 600 million people across Africa have no access to electricity and 60% of African businesses say access to reliable power is a constraint on their growth. Power outages cost African countries between 1% and 2% of their GDP annually but it is estimated that energy storage technologies could save up to 100 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year by replacing 25 million diesel and gasoline generators in developing countries. 

Dr Edward Brightman, a Lecturer in Strathclyde’s Department of Chemical and Process Engineering, is leading the project. He said: “This project draws together some of the excellent expertise across the University on energy storage and will hopefully lead to a vibrant battery storage network at Strathclyde. It is a fantastic opportunity for Strathclyde to get involved with the Faraday Institution, and we look forward to working with StorTera to develop this promising new technology.”

The Strathclyde researchers plan to reduce the cost of an innovative graphite polysulphide single liquid flow battery (GPFB). They will work with Edinburgh-based commercial flow battery developer StorTera to refine and cost-engineer the system. Improvements to the liquid component of the battery will be targeted to make it suitable for Sub-Saharan climates. Additionally, the graphite felt electrode materials will be engineered to enable the possibility of using existing roll-to-roll manufacturing equipment as the team targets a step change in cost, which would be highly competitive compared with current Li-ion battery costs.

A prototype flow battery, suitable for supporting critical infrastructure such as telecommunications towers and micro-grids, will be assembled using low-cost components and will be tested by the Strathclyde-led Power Networks Demonstration Centre. Researchers will engage with potential end users in Sub-Saharan Africa to identify specific needs and a suitable site to ultimately install and demonstrate the prototype.

Additionally, the Energy for Development team at Strathclyde will support a techno-economic study of the flow battery, outlining specific user and business cases to demonstrate how effective the technology could be.

The project is funded from a £3 million grant provided to the Faraday Institution from UK Aid as part of its Transforming Energy Access (TEA) programme. The TEA programme supports early-stage testing and scale up of innovative technologies and business models that will accelerate access to affordable, clean energy-based services to poor households and enterprises, especially in Africa.

Ian Ellerington, Head of Technology Transfer at the Faraday Institution said, “Through this programme and our wider work with the World Economic Forum’s Global Battery Alliance and World Bank’s Energy Storage Partnership, we are pleased that the Faraday Institution is in a position to affect global change, helping communities with low or no connectivity to have reliable access to energy sources and bringing economic, social and environment benefits to developing countries and emerging economies.”