Vanadium, Australia’s New Battery Technology

By Irena Kosturska

Battery technology is becoming more and more important as Australia and the rest of the world transition to renewable energy. Most people associate batteries with the small household items used to power electronic devices, but as renewable technology continues to improve, there is demand for larger and larger batteries with integration into electricity grids. Increasing developments in the sector have made the technology more efficient and feasible as an industrial-grade energy storage device. One of the current issues with batteries is their deterioration over time and the need for recycling. At Metal Men Recycling, we have people sell old batteries to us so we can make sure they are recycled properly, as batteries are not suitable for disposal in a regular household recycling bin due to the chemicals and metals used for production.

But new technology aims to improve the lifespan and recycling capacity of the world’s industrial-grade batteries, and it has all started here in Australia. Whilst lithium-ion batteries are currently the market leader in renewable battery technology, commonly associated with Tesla products, electric vehicles, and large-scale battery installations for solar power; an alternate battery solution is being developed that aims to be a competitor for large-scale installation. Vanadium Batteries.

What is Vanadium?

Vanadium is not a common household name, but maybe in twenty years when you come to Metal Men to sell old batteries, we’ll be taking some of these. Sitting at #23 on the periodic table with the symbol ‘V’, whilst some isolated deposits can be found, the metal is commonly found naturally in 65 minerals and fossil fuels. The largest players in the Vanadium market are China, Russia, and South Africa, as the metal is currently used for making steel alloys. Whilst there are not currently Vanadium mines operating in Australia, deposits have been located and are awaiting approval processes.

Vanadium Redox Batteries.

Maria Skyllas-Kazacos discovered the first demonstration of a rechargeable Vanadium redox Flow Battery in the 1980s using a solution of sulphuric acid. She currently holds over 30 patents to the technology with the University of New South Wales. Kazacos has stated that technology has recently seen more interest as the renewables sector is starting to ‘acknowledge that you needed to store energy, the grid isn’t so good at stabilising all these renewable energies…. you really need a long duration. And that’s why flow batteries have been attracting a lot of attention.”

Renewable technology has a fluctuating supply throughout the day, as the sun shines, cloud cover, and wind speed, all affect the input of electricity into the grid. This means that a large amount of electricity will enter the grid and once, but none will be generated at other times of the day. The times of generation often do not match demand. A stable battery storage solution aims to solve this issue, which is where a vanadium flow battery excels. The benefits of the battery are their incredible stability, with the ability to be discharged and recharged up to 20,000 times and lose little performance, unlike that of a lithium-ion battery, which loses immense capacity after a tenth of the recharges.

Benefits of Vanadium Batteries

It’s much easier to adapt vanadium batteries to large-scale applications, as the electrolyte fluid that transfers charges inside the battery can be scaled accordingly. However, current vanadium battery storage is large scale only and not as compact as lithium-ion capabilities. Most current Vanadium batteries have a 25+ year lifespan at full capacity, in comparison to the 5–10-year lithium-ion battery lifespan (with capacity degrading over time.) The electrolyte solution doesn’t degrade over time and can be re-used when the actual battery hardware needs upgrading. So, in theory, a vanadium battery can operate forever, at full capacity, and no new vanadium needs to be mined during the recycling process. The other big advantage is the safety and lack of flammability or explosivity of the battery. Whilst lithium-ion fires are causing problems for the electric vehicle and battery industry, vanadium batteries should not catch fire given they are water-based.

Disadvantages of Vanadium Batteries.

However, there are currently a few issues the vanadium battery industry must tackle to compete with Lithium-Ion in some respects. Vanadium batteries are heavier and have a lower energy-volume ratio when compared to other types of batteries, which is why they are currently only being used for large-scale, stationary installations. This is due to the high weight of the electrolyte solution. Vanadium oxides can be toxic at high exposure levels as well.

So, whilst this market is emerging, only time will tell if you will be visiting metal men recycling to sell old battery parts from recycled vanadium batteries in the future.

Sell Old Batteries for Recycling

If you’re looking to sell old batteries or scrap metal in Melbourne, the scrap metal buyers at Metal Men Recycling offer a professional service and the best prices. We offer a streamlined battery and scrap metal recycling clean-up and collection, with our 24-hour pick-up service.

Whether you’re looking to sell old batteries or scrap metal, give us a call on 03 5941 6677 or fill out our online contact form

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