SoLead Energy create new grid-scale battery

A team of scientists from the University of Southampton have come up with a new grid-scale battery – the Soluble Lead Flow Battery (SLFB) – that is said to be ideal for large-scale energy storage for stationary applications.

The battery stores energy in lead dissolved in a safe, non-flammable, water-based electrolyte. The system is completely circular, with materials that can be sourced from spent lead-acid batteries and at the end of its life, it can be recycled using existing, scaled processes. It has been created by founder of SoLead Energy, researcher, Dr Ewan Fraser and Professor Richard Wills.

SoLead Energy is one of the seven startups which are part of the Future Worlds Cohort, an intensive programme at the University of Southampton, accelerating startups where they receive mentoring, support and important introductions to key networks.

Co-Founder, Dr Ewan Fraser said:

The fundamental aim of energy storage is to provide a reliable electricity network while transitioning to a net zero energy system, i.e. to minimise the damage we are doing to the environment. Many existing technologies need materials with damaging mining activities that are then shipped around the world to manufacturing sites. SoLead Energy was founded to create an energy storage solution that can make use of processes, supply chains and recycling solutions that already exist near to where the technology is required. In this way, new manufacturing capacity can be added quickly in a way that is kinder to the environment.

Co-founders Richard and Ewan first came together in 2016 when Ewan enrolled on his PhD at the University of Southampton. Richard was offering a project on the Soluble Lead Flow Battery, a technology he has been working on for some years since embarking on his own PhD. They went on to work together moving from supervisor and student to colleagues, continuing to work on the SLFB together. Ewan is a researcher in Mechanical Engineering with a focus on redox flow battery design while Richard is Professor of Electrochemical Energy Systems and Head of Department for Mechanical Engineering.

Ewan adds:

With a greater penetration of renewable energy in electricity networks, it is becoming more difficult to balance generation with demand for electricity, increasing the strain on the grid. Increasing renewables can also lead to decreased grid stability, making power cuts more likely. With the dropping price of solar, clean energy is becoming available to those who do not have access to electricity. The SLFB can ensure that an electricity supply is available all day, not just when the sun is shining. Other energy storage technologies can solve many of these issues, too. However, the market leader – lithium-ion – has a high upfront cost, is prone to thermal runaway and fire (or needs expensive mitigation strategies) and isn’t economical beyond four hours of storage. Our solution is a non-flammable, cost-effective system, that has a completely circular manufacturing and recycling process that ties in with existing infrastructure and is therefore kinder to the environment.

Ben Clark, Director of Future Worlds at the University of Southampton, said:

Future Worlds supports the next generation of talent. Our founders go on not only to gain millions of pounds of investment but to win awards, solve enormous problems and change lives for the better through their innovations. These founders are addressing the biggest challenges we are facing today; they are bold, creative and determined to make their businesses a massive success, so we are very proud to help them on their journey.

Visit InstallerSHOW, which runs 25-27 June at the NEC. Free tickets: