Postdoctoral Fellow Position on Small Organic Molecule Synthetic Chemistry for Grid-Scale Electrical Energy Storage
Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Internal Number: 10853
School: Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Department/Area: Materials Science and Mechanical Engineering / Chemistry and Chemical Biology
A postdoctoral fellow position is available for the synthesis and testing of redox-active small organic molecules for electrical energy storage, such as the electrochemical couples used in the flow batteries described in 1 – 3. The position is for fifteen months starting in early January 2022.
The cost of wind and photovoltaic (PV) electricity have dropped so rapidly that their intermittency is the greatest remaining technical obstacle to getting the vast majority of our electricity from these safe, renewable sources. Grid-scale storage could solve this problem, but currently no cost-effective solution exists to this large-scale storage problem.
The advantages of liquid flow batteries are giving them increased attention for grid-scale electrical storage. Conventional solid electrode batteries can maintain peak discharge power for only a few hours before being drained, whereas many hours to days are required to match variable sources like wind and PV with the fluctuating demand for electricity. In a flow battery, the discharge time may be made as long as needed by increasing the size of the storage tanks for the liquid reactants and products.
With Harvard's approach to flow battery chemistry, electrical energy is stored through electrochemical redox reactions of small organic molecules dissolved in aqueous electrolyte, and returned to the grid through the reversal of these reactions. This particular approach has potential advantages over other flow battery chemistries, including high power density, inexpensive chemicals, energy storage in the form of safer liquids, and inexpensive electrolyte-contacting materials.
This 15-month research project is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy through a subcontract from Quino Energy, Inc.; it is a collaboration between the experimental chemistry group of Prof. Roy Gordon of the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology (CCB) and the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), the electrochemical materials group of Prof. Michael Aziz in SEAS, and Quino Energy. In the Gordon lab the postdoc who takes this position will perform research and development on low-cost synthetic routes for redox-active small organic molecules. These will include established and new functionalized anthraquinones, isomers, and isomer mixtures. S/he will work with collaborators in the Aziz group to characterize the properties of these chemicals and their performance in small electrochemical flow cells. S/he will work with one or more external consultants on estimating the mass-production cost and, informed by such cost estimates, will modify synthetic procedures in an iterative process. There will be opportunities to work closely with and visit scaleup manufacturers to see how the lab process is scaled to the mass-production scale.
1 K. Lin, Q. Chen, M.R. Gerhardt, L. Tong, S.B. Kim, L. Eisenach, A.W. Valle, D. Hardee, R.G. Gordon, M.J. Aziz and M.P. Marshak,
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