Date of Award

5-2019

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Mechanical Engineering

Major Professor

Matthew Mench

Committee Members

David Keffer, Kenneth Kihm, Feng-Yuan Zhang, Doug Aaron

Abstract

Scalable and open architecture of redox flow batteries (RFBs) is a promising solution for large-scale energy storage. Among many chemistries developed for RFBs, all-vanadium redox flow batteries (VRFBs) currently show great potential for widespread commercialization. VRFBs utilize vanadium ions with different oxidation states in the negative and positive electrolytes; this characteristic frees them from irreversible capacity decay as a function of electroactive species transport through the membrane (i.e. crossover). However, crossover of vanadium ions and water during the charge/discharge cycling not only results in a lost discharge capacity, but also has real-time influence on the cell performance.Several parameters affect solute and solvent crossover during cycling. In this dissertation, experimental data along with multiscale computational modeling tailored to quantify the contributions to capacity decay stemming from ion-exchange membrane properties (e.g. equivalent weight and degree of reinforcement), flow field design, electrolyte properties, and operating conditions. A major focus has been to understand the effect of the electrode/membrane interface on the capacity decay and contact resistance. Novel ex-situ conductivity cells have been devised to assess ionic conductivity of the ion-exchange membranes along with electrolytes leading to details on the impact of interfacial phenomena on ionic conductivity and crossover.To quantify the long-term influence of crossover, a unique set-up (we call it IonCrG: Ionic Crossover Gauge) was built and fabricated enabling real-time measurement of the ionic transport across the polymeric membrane using ultraviolet-visible (UV/Vis) spectroscopy. The IonCrG enables separation of contributions to crossover emerging from concentration and electrostatic potential gradients. To investigate the instantaneous impact of crossover on the performance, a real-time current density distribution diagnostic has been implemented for measuring the in-plane current density distribution.The insights gained from this suite of experimental diagnostics and multiscale modeling have inspired design of systems with enhanced performance and greatly decreased crossover losses. Novel cell topologies along with asymmetric electrolyte compositions were designed and engineered for mitigating the ionic crossover during the operation of VRFBs. The cell architecture as well as the electrolyte configuration proposed in this dissertation provides an inexpensive and passive solution for retaining capacity during extended cycling of aqueous RFBs.

Orcid ID

https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2546-1754

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