Skip to Main Content U.S. Department of Energy
Energy Storage

Types of Batteries

Developing the right battery—with the right chemistry—for the right job

Our researchers develop, test, and improve a wide range of batteries. Leveraging decades of experience and our state-of-the-art facilities, we push the boundaries of battery technology, matching the right chemistry and design with the right application.

If you're interested in seeing our battery technologies that are available for licensing, visit our Available Technologies website and select the "Energy Storage" portfolio.

The batteries we focus on include:

Vanadium-Redox Flow: These batteries have shown the ability to meet the challenge of integrating energy from renewable resources, such as solar and wind farms. For years, sensitivity to high temperature, high cost, and smaller storage capacity limited widespread use of these batteries. Our researchers, however, developed the first commercially viable redox flow battery capable of deployment at grid scale, and in 2012, our technology was licensed to UniEnergy Technologies LLC.

Zinc-Polyiodide Flow: Developed in 2015, the zinc-polyiodide redox flow battery is used to store renewable energy. It uses an electrolyte that has more than two times the energy density, or stored energy, of the next-best flow battery—approaching the energy density of the type of lithium-ion battery used to power portable electronic devices and some small electric vehicles.

Organic Aqueous Flow: Similar to the vanadium-redox flow battery—and also used for renewable integration—this battery generates power by pumping liquids from external tanks into a central stack. The newest version is expected to cost as little as $180 per kilowatt-hour once fully developed—60 percent less than today's standard flow batteries.

Sodium-Ion: Sodium-ion batteries are highly efficient and relatively cheap, but developing such batteries with high energy density and a long life has been a challenge. Our researchers are working towards making sodium a viable replacement for lithium for grid energy storage by developing a protective layer to reduce consumption of sodium ions in the battery.

Sodium-Metal Halide: Also known as ZEBRA batteries, these hold potential as stationary batteries used to store energy for the grid. In 2016, our researchers revealed a new design that is more stable and less expensive to manufacture, with increased energy density.

Magnesium-Ion: With more capacity and fewer safety issues than their lithium counterparts, magnesium batteries are a potentially promising energy storage option, but the electrodes are difficult to produce and quickly fail. Our researchers have found that tin and antimony can work together to make better magnesium batteries.

Magnesium-Lithium Hybrid: Magnesium and lithium each have their advantages, and our researchers sought out to combine them in the development of a hybrid battery that can be used for many applications—especially for grid energy storage. The hybrid battery couples a magnesium metal anode with a positive lithium ion cathode, delivering both outstanding rate performance and superior safety and stability.

Zinc-Manganese Oxide: These batteries are attractive for storing renewable energy and supporting the power grid. They use abundant, inexpensive materials and their energy density can exceed lead-acid batteries. We are continuing to improve our zinc-manganese oxide battery—in 2016, our battery reached a storage capacity of 285 milliAmpere-hours per gram of manganese oxide over 5,000 cycles, while retaining 92 percent of its initial storage capacity.

Lithium-Ion: Li-ion batteries are commonly used in portable electronics and electric vehicles. These rechargeable batteries have two electrodes: one that's positively charged and contains lithium and another negative one that's typically made of graphite. Electricity is generated when electrons flow through a wire that connects the two. Lithium, however, is limited in abundance, making widespread deployment costly.

Lithium-Sulfur: These lightweight batteries hold lots of potential for electric vehicles. They store two times the energy of batteries on store shelves, but their charge is often short lived. The issue begins with the battery's cathode, which slowly disintegrates and forms molecules called polysulfides that dissolve into the battery's electrolyte liquid. The dissolved sulfur eventually develops into a thin film that continues to grow on the surface of the lithium-containing anode, until the battery is inoperable. At the lab-scale, we've developed solutions to protect the anode and stabilize the cathode, and we're working to bring them to real-world applications.

Lithium-Air: Lithium-air batteries could allow for long-range electric vehicles to travel hundreds of miles between charges. These batteries still suffer, however, from limited storage capacity and are not fully rechargeable. Our researchers are working on improvements to these batteries to increase storage and charging capability.

Lithium-Metal: These batteries are filled with potential to power electric vehicles. They are similar to Li-ion batteries, but with lithium metal in place of graphite anodes. In early 2017, our researchers added small amounts of salt to these batteries, creating a 4.3-volt battery that retained more than 97 percent of its initial charge after 500 repeated charges and discharges, while carrying 1.75 milliAmps of electrical current per square centimeter of area.

Flow batteries produce power by pumping electrolytes—liquid solutions with dissolved chemicals—from external tanks into a central stack.

Energy Storage

Program Areas