Advanced Power and Energy Program Receives State Energy Commission Grant to Study Flow Battery Systems

Project will Focus on Environmental, Human Health Impacts of New Storage Technologies


Irvine, Calif., Aug. 30, 2017 – A team of researchers from the Advanced Power & Energy Program at the University of California, Irvine was recently awarded a three-year, $600,000 grant from the California Energy Commission to characterize and improve the life-cycle environmental footprint of flow battery energy storage systems.

There is significant interest in flow batteries as a viable option for scalable energy storage in the electricity system to facilitate the robust integration of renewable energy sources. Flow batteries have a potential advantage over conventional batteries in large stationary applications because they can be more easily scaled to provide long-duration storage for meeting large-scale energy storage needs in the future electrical grid. Currently, less is known about the environmental footprint of these systems versus more well-known lithiumion batteries.

"Energy storage is shaping up to be a key player in aiding the increased use of renewable energy on the electricity system that would otherwise be wasted," said Brian Tarroja, the APEP principal investigator. "As we deploy energy storage systems, it’s important to avoid any potential negative environmental or resource impacts associated with their life cycle."

The project will examine the materials employed, energy usage, toxic emissions output and human health effects of flow battery energy storage systems’ life cycle – including materials extraction, manufacturing, use, and disposal or recycling stages – and identify improvements to reduce negative environmental impacts. The APEP team will analyze three different flow battery chemistries.

"When talking about a sustainable energy system, it’s important to bring materials and the full life cycle into the picture," said Julie Schoenung, professor of chemical engineering & materials science and a co-principal investigator on the project. "A lot of focus has been on lithium-ion batteries in this regard, but we also need to ensure that we gain the same type of understanding for the full range of energy storage systems."

"The development of a sustainable energy system is ultimately an effort to improve human health," said Oladele Ogunseitan, professor of public health and a co-principal investigator on the project. "We need to ensure that any new technologies we use in this effort do not degrade human health over their life cycle."

"This project is part of our larger research theme to ensure that the design of a future ‘sustainable’ energy system is approached from a holistic environmental perspective, and is a start to more fully incorporating life-cycle aspects," said Scott Samuelsen, APEP director and professor of mechanical, aerospace, and environmental engineering.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 30,000 students and offers 192 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $5 billion annually to the local economy. For more on UCI, visit

About the UCI Advanced Power & Energy Program: APEP addresses the broad utilization of energy resources and the emerging connection of electric power generation, infrastructure, transportation, water resources and the environment. It seeks to develop, promote and deploy increasingly efficient and environmentally sustainable power production and energy conversion worldwide, with a focus on the creation and sharing of new knowledge through fundamental and applied research, education and outreach.

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