ToyotaThe ECS Toyota Young Investigator Fellowship kicked off in 2014, establishing a partnership between The Electrochemical Society and Toyota Research Institute of North America, aimed at funding young scholars pursuing innovative research in green energy technology.

The proposal deadline for the year’s fellowship is Jan. 31, 2017. Apply now!

While you put together your proposals, check out what Patrick Cappillino, one of the fellowship’s inaugural winners, says about his experience with the fellowship and the opportunities it presented.


The Electrochemical Society: Your proposed topic for the ECS Young Investigator Toyota Fellowship was “Mushroom-derived Natural Products as Flow Battery Electrolytes.” What inspired that work?

Patrick Cappillino: This research was inspired by a conversation with a colleague. I was relating the problem of redox instability in flow battery electrolytes. He told me his doctoral work had focused on an interesting molecule called Amavadin, produced by mushrooms, that was extremely stable and easy to make. The lightbulb really went off when we noticed that the starting material was the decomposition product of another flow battery electrolyte that has problems with instability.

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Flow batteryA team of researchers at Case Western Reserve University is building a flow battery prototype to provide cleaner, cheaper power.

The team, co-led by ECS member Bob Savinell, is working to scale up the technology in order develop a practical, efficient energy storage device that can store excess electricity and potentially augment the grid in light of a shift toward renewables.

With a $1.17 million federal grant, the team has started to build a 1-kilowatt prototype with enough power to run various, high-powered household devices for six hours.

“Intermittent energy sources, such as solar and wind, combined with traditional sources of coal and nuclear power, are powering the grid. To meet peak demand, we often use less-efficient coal or gas-powered turbines,” says Savinell, ECS Fellow and editor of the Journal of The Electrochemical Society. “But if we can store excess energy and make it available at peak use, we can increase the overall efficiency and decrease the amount of carbon dioxide emitted and lower the cost of electricity.”

One of the biggest barriers preventing the large-scale use of electrochemical energy storage devices has been the cost. To address this, Savinell and his team have been developing the flow battery with cheaper materials, such as iron and water.

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According to scientists at the University at Buffalo, a new glowing dye called BODIPY could be a central part of the liquid-based batteries that researchers are looking at to power our cars and homes.

BODIPY – or boron-dipyrromethene – is a fluorescent material that researchers believe could be an ideal material for stockpiling energy.

While the dye is fluorescent, that’s not what initially attracted scientists. According to new research, the dye has chemical properties that enables it to store electrons and participate in electron transfer. These two properties are critical for energy storage.

The new research shows that BODIPY-based batteries operate efficiently and display promising potential for longevity, functioning for more than 100 charge cycles.

“As the world becomes more reliant on alternative energy sources, one of the huge questions we have is, ‘How do we store energy?’ What happens when the sun goes down at night, or when the wind stops?” says lead researcher Timothy Cook, ECS member and assistant professor of chemistry at the University at Buffalo. “All these energy sources are intermittent, so we need batteries that can store enough energy to power the average house.”

Renewable grideThe world’s next energy revolution is looming nearer.

In order to bolster this transformation, the U.S. Department of Energy has been funding 75 projects in the energy technology field, enabling cutting-edge research into energy conversion and storage. This effort is part of the DOE’s goal to “decarbonize” the U.S. energy infrastructure by the middle of the country.

One of the most promising projects funded by the DOE is led by ECS member Michael Aziz, where he and his team from Harvard are addressing challenges in grid energy storage.

Energy storage has become one of the largest barriers in the widespread implementation of renewables. By offering a cost-effective, efficient answer to energy storage, the issues of intermittency in power sources such as wind and solar could be answered.

Aziz and his team are addressing issues in energy storage with the development of a flow battery based on inexpensive organic molecules in a water-based electrolyte. The team is focusing on using quinone molecules, which can be found in such plant sources as rhubarb or even oil waste. The quinone molecules allow energy to be stored in a water-based solution at room temperature.

Aziz recently discussed some of his work in quinon-bromide flow batteries as part of the Journal of The Electrochemical Society Focus Issue on Redox Flow Batteries-Reversible Fuel Cells.

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Solutions for Storing Green Energy

Research into alternative sources of energy, such as solar and wind, are constantly growing and evolving. The science behind photovoltaics is improving constantly and wind turbines are producing more electrical energy than ever before. However, the question still stands of how we store and deliver this electrical energy to the grid. A few ECS members from Harvard University believe their new flow battery could answer that question.


Building off earlier research, the new and improve flow battery could offer a great solution for the reliability issue of energy sources such as wind and solar based on weather patterns. The batteries could store large amounts of electrical energy that can delivered to commercial and residential establishments even when the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining.

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