Our first commercial membranes will be for redox flow batteries. Unlike the battery in your cell phone, a flow battery operates by pumping two water-based electrolyte solutions into a cell. The electrolytes (commonly vanadium) can be charged or discharged depending on whether a current is being applied (e.g., solar cell or wind turbine) or it is being extracted (e.g., delivered to homes). Flow batteries are consistently identified as one of the best options for grid-scale energy storage due to their scalability, safety and adjustable energy and power rating. Like all new technologies - they are still expensive and the membrane is one of the most expensive components. Membranes are expensive because they must be able to transport proton rapidly but cannot allow any other chemical species to cross the membranes. Moreover, most materials breakdown in the strongly oxidizing flow battery environment which limits the options for membranes. See the critical role the membrane plays in the video below:
Membrion has developed a new membrane technology by borrowing materials from the food packaging industry. If you've ever purchased a package of beef jerky or dried seaweed you are familiar with silica gel. They're the little glass beads that are great at absorbing moisture. It turns out they're great at absorbing moisture because they have these really small pores - just a few atoms wide. Membrion has filed provisional patents for a simple process to make membranes using silica gel. They're flexible and we've optimized the performance for flow batteries.
Only small processing changes are required to engineer the pore size to better suit other applications. Right now we're identifying who has the greatest need in other separations and purification processes. If that might be you, let us know!