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Startup gives new life to old technology — how a $109 million investment could help change the battery industry

"A clean and renewable energy future demands radical new concepts for energy storage."

“A clean and renewable energy future demands radical new concepts for energy storage."

Photo Credit: CMBlu

A German battery lab is breathing new life into an old concept — solid flow batteries — by removing rare metals from the components list. 

Instead, the CMBlu team is using organic elements to create an improved charge/discharge process that can be used to store renewable energy

"Nature had a choice to use metal or organic molecules to store and release energy. It chose organic. So are we," the company states on its website, referencing the chemical reaction powering living cells. 

Flow batteries work by pumping liquid electrolytes — the substance where the charge/discharge cycle happens — from external tanks through positive and negative electrodes in a "constant flow," per CMBlu.

Instead of using hard-to-gather metals like lithium for the needed molecules in the electrolyte, this innovation uses organic, carbon-based polymers, Canary Media explains in a story on the tech

"We're transitioning from a fossil fuel economy to a renewables and metals economy — there's so much metal" needed for common batteries, CMBlu U.S. Division President Ben Kaun told Canary Media. ​"What we have here at CMBlu is a rechargeable polymer, a rechargeable plastic. We can make the plastic [and] recycle the plastic." The company touts fully recyclable electrolytes. 

The tech is meant for large-scale storage. CMBlu claims that with maintenance, the battery can "potentially" achieve "unlimited" cycles with up to 90% efficiency. It's nonflammable as well, according to the company. 

Bulk storage tech is an important part of harnessing intermittent renewable energy from the sun, wind, and waves. Tesla is in the sector with its Megapacks, which use lithium. Other concepts leverage the power of gravity and water to store energy. 

CMBlu envisions its batteries as providing juice to electric vehicle charging stations, powering the shipping industry, and even in factories.  

The company recently landed an investment roughly equivalent to $109 million, according to Canary Media. It has contracts with utilities in the U.S. and Europe and intends to start delivering batteries here in 2025.

In the U.S., CMBlu is targeting areas (Wisconsin and Arizona among them) with a waning coal power presence, all per Canary Media. The story notes that some other companies have flow battery projects set to go online by the decade's end. 

For CMBlu, the goal is to give new life to an old concept for a cleaner future. 

"A clean and renewable energy future demands radical new concepts for energy storage," the company states on its website. 

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