Electrochemical implications of modulating the solvation shell around redox active organic species in aqueous organic redox flow batteries
The development of cost-effective batteries for long-duration grid scale energy storage will be accelerated using frameworks to rapidly screen and select battery components. Herein, we show that the solvent reorganization energy calculated from the Born equation (with reference to an electrolyte’s composition) is predictive of the electrolytes’ device level performance. This descriptor was found to correlate with key transport and kinetic properties over a range of electrolyte compositions and pH values, succinctly capturing the multicomponent interactions between the electrolyte salts and solvent. This enables the initial high-throughput screening of electrolyte candidates with minimal experimentation. Applied to aqueous redox flow batteries employing organic redox active species, we predict high-performance electrolyte compositions, enabling significantly enhanced device performance.
Organic and organometallic reactants in aqueous electrolytes, being composed of earth-abundant elements, are promising redox active candidates for cost-effective organic redox flow batteries (ORFBs). Various compounds of ferrocene and methyl viologen have been examined as promising redox actives for this application. Herein, we examined the influence of the electrolyte pH and the salt anion on model redox active organic cations, bis((3-trimethylammonio) propyl)- ferrocene dichloride (BTMAP-Fc) and bis(3-trimethylammonio) propyl viologen tetrachloride (BTMAP-Vi), which have exhibited excellent cycling stability and capacity retention at ≥1.00 M concentration [E. S. Beh, et al. ACS Energy Lett. 2, 639–644 (2017)]. We examined the solvation shell around BTMAP-Fc and BTMAP-Vi at acidic and neutral pH with SO42-, Cl−, and CH3SO3− counterions and elucidated their impact on cation diffusion coefficient, first electron transfer rate constant, and thereby the electrochemical Thiele modulus. The electrochemical Thiele modulus was found to be exponentially correlated with the solvent reorganizational energy (λ) in both neutral and acidic pH. Thus, λ is proposed as a universal descriptor and selection criteria for organic redox flow battery electrolyte compositions. In the specific case of the BTMAP-Fc/BTMAP-Vi ORFB, low pH electrolytes with methanesulfonate or chloride counterions were identified as offering the best balance of transport and kinetic requirements.
Author contributions: S.S., J.P., and V.R. designed research; K.S., S.S., and J.P. performed research; K.S., S.S., J.P., and V.R. contributed new reagents/analytic tools; K.S., S.S., and V.R. analyzed data; and K.S., S.S., and V.R. wrote the paper.
The authors declare no competing interest.
This article is a PNAS Direct Submission.
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