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Charles N. Schmidt

CEI Research Interest: Sol-Gel and catalytic treatments for graphite electrodes in vanadium redox flow batteries

Many people are aware of the ever increasing presence renewable energy sources are taking in national and global energy production. In fact, between 2005 and 2009 the US Energy Information Administration reported solar and wind energy generation market shares grew by 46.8% and 297.3%, respectively. While this is good news in moving toward a more sustainable and cleaner energy future, it creates a new problem: How do we effectively store energy from these intermittent sources and incorporate them into the existing electrical grid? One potential solution is the use of vanadium redox flow batteries (VRBs). VRBs are a type of flow battery that utilize a single electrolyte containing Vanadium ions. Because of the multi-valence nature of vanadium it can be used to in both the positive (V4+/V5+) and negative (V2+/V3+) halves of the battery. VRBs are advantageous to renewable energy storage in that they are capable of being repeatedly charged and discharged with relatively little degradation over very long periods of time, capable of rapidly discharging, and can be scaled to create very large battery systems that compensate for when intermittent energy sources are inactive. On the downside, most current and commercial VRBs use porous carbon (graphite) fiber based electrodes which while inexpensive and robust suffer from relatively low charge storage capacity. My research aims to utilize surface treatments of nanoporous carbon and surface catalysts as means improve and enhance the charge storage capacity of commercially available porous carbon electrodes. The ultimate goal of which is to improve the overall energy density of any VRB system.

Advisor: Guozhong Cao, Materials Science and Engineering