The Energy Storage for Grid Security and Modernization program is currently looking for partners to collaborate on the following projects.
Degradation mechanisms of nickel-rich NMC lithium-ion batteries
As lithium-ion batteries become increasingly critical to the smooth functioning of our everyday lives, so does the desire to increase their performance, reduce their cost, and ensure their safe operation. Studies show that by increasing the nickel content of the cathode in a nickel-manganese-cobalt- (NMC) based lithium-ion battery you can materially improve the capacity, thus lowering the per-unit cost while still maintaining relative safety compared to other commercially available alternatives.
For this reason, Ni0.8Mn0.1Co0.1O2 (NMC811), a Ni-rich NMC composition, is currently attracting considerable attention. However, the delivered capacity of NMC811 is very limited when charged under high-voltage conditions (over ~4.2V) due to poor structural stability of the cathode material.
In this project, we propose new insight into phase transitions, strain within particles, particle cracking and impedance changes that occur during charge and discharge of the NMC811 cathode over prolonged cycling at high voltages. Our method includes the use of time-dependent electrochemical impedance spectroscopy combined with differential capacity measurement and post-physical characterization to interpret data and compare the resistance change of cycled cells under these conditions. These efforts will provide data for the fundamental understanding of high voltage and prolonged cycling influence on the structure-impedance relationship and will help to optimize the use of NMC811 in lithium-ion batteries.
Next-generation materials for solid-state batteries
One of the more promising energy storage technologies under development is solid-state lithium batteries because they offer higher energy density and increased safety compared to conventional liquid electrolyte-based batteries. However, the development of this technology has been hampered by the low ionic conductivity, brittle mechanical properties, and chemical instability of the solid electrolyte.
The NRC, along with its academic and industrial partners, are working on the development of the next generation of materials based on composites of existing and novel materials with less ionic and more covalent characteristics that can be combined with polymers to make more malleable and highly conductive solid-state electrolyte materials. This project will screen groups of these materials to ensure they meet the criteria for performance, safety and manufacturability. Additional work on a variety of novel electrolytes, including covalent lithium-ion conducting materials, will be carried out in parallel and screened in coin-type lithium cells with various anode and cathode materials to ensure the stability of the entire material system. It is expected that together these activities will contribute to enhanced performance and safety for lithium-based batteries of the future.
Development platform for improved vanadium redox flow battery performance
Among the available options for stationary electrical energy storage, vanadium redox flow batteries (VRFBs) are gathering interest for their suitability for both on-grid and off-grid applications, their fast response times, and the fact that their power and energy capacities can be sized and scaled independently. In addition, their design does not exhibit degradation through electrolyte cross-contamination, and they are inherently safe to operate at ambient temperatures due to their use of non-flammable components and reversible processes. Despite their benefits, to be commercially viable, the technology must be more cost effective and continue to demonstrate long lifetimes.
This project will take a systematic and detailed look at the phenomena occurring in the VRFBs and their mechanisms. As the understanding of degradation mechanisms advances, findings will be fed back into the development of battery materials and components. In parallel, mathematical models of the degradation processes will be developed and combined with VRFB functional models, creating prediction tools for component performance and degradation. The development of accelerated-lifetime testing protocols will be used to evaluate the behaviour of VRFB components under a combination of operational stresses. We expect that this project will provide VRFB component developers with lower cost and higher performing materials to help accelerate the deployment of the technology.
End-of-life lithium-ion battery options – remanufacturing, repurposing and recycling
As the use of lithium-ion batteries continues to grow in a wide range of applications including portable electronics, electric vehicles, and stationary storage, so does the looming environmental challenge associated with their end of life. This is because, at present, the recycling of constituent materials is fairly restricted, with a limited amount being recycled, and the majority, including some environmentally hazardous materials, being disposed of in landfills. Current remanufacturing and repurposing technologies are mainly limited to demonstrations while recycling technologies mainly focus on mechanical separation of the battery, plastic component removal, and separating contacts to recycle copper and aluminium, or pyrometallurgy processes, which tend to remove many valuable materials during the process.
The objectives of this project are to:
- develop testing standards and diagnostic tools for the remanufacturing/repurposing of end of life batteries
- investigate the potential for direct anode regeneration
- develop novel elemental separation techniques of anode and cathode materials
- understand the economic and environmental impact of recycling
The project will do this by testing, screening and selecting cells according to novel state-of-health evaluation techniques, and then building prototype remanufactured and repurposed battery sub-modules for performance evaluation. The project will also investigate anode regeneration through thermal and chemical techniques as well as cathode recycling using a new aqueous elemental separation technology utilizing supported liquid membranes (SLM). We expect that this project will contribute to more efforts to develop efficient and cost-effective methods to recycle the increasing volume of lithium-ion batteries worldwide.
Energy storage model development with IEA ECES Annex 32
The International Energy Agency (IEA) is an autonomous intergovernmental organization that acts as a policy adviser to broaden the focus of energy security, economic development and environmental protection, and promotes alternate energy sources, energy policies and multinational energy technology cooperation. The National Research Council of Canada (NRC) is the Canadian representative in the IEA Energy Storage Technology Cooperation Program. We work with stakeholders to deliver on the key components of the work plan developed by the IEA's Annex 32 participants. The NRC's work spans the three Annex sub-tasks of modelling, data collection, and validation with a focus on electrical energy storage systems.
More specifically, this project involves the development of standardized, scientifically proven datasets/test cases and open-source models for energy storage systems. These models will then be validated to ensure consistency throughout the research, development and deployment effort.
These activities are intended to help optimize energy storage systems and increase their reliability for adoption in Canadian applications. This will ultimately lead to improved electric system efficiencies and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
Canadian energy storage roadmap: Phase 3 – Atlantic Canada
Atlantic Canada currently has some of the highest energy prices in the country; however they also have a high potential for the integration of renewable energy. There is a keen interest from stakeholder groups such as utilities, regulators and industry to understand how energy storage may help integrate renewable energy into the electrical grid. This requires a detailed understanding of grid requirements, technology potential, policy impacts and cost implications, and how they might enable an uptake in renewable energy while lowering costs to consumers in the process.
Using a 3 pillar approach, this project will apply the Canadian energy storage roadmap platform to analyze the costs and benefits of energy storage adoption in Atlantic Canada. NRC experts will conduct an overall grid/market assessment, a detailed technology and project level analysis, and assess the environmental and socio-economic benefits of adopting energy storage. This analysis will integrate the local market conditions and the physical constraints of the local grid. Impacts of specific adoption scenarios, market drivers and use cases, and technology and policy trends will be included.
We expect the analysis to inform stakeholders of the costs and benefits of energy storage adoption in the region, and provide a comparison of alternatives at the generation, transmission, and distribution levels. Through close collaboration with an advisory board, including provincial utilities, government departments, regulators and industry representatives, we expect that the project will enable a consistent and unbiased assessment of the potential for storage in Atlantic Canada.