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Frontiers in Energy

ISSN 2095-1701 (Print)
ISSN 2095-1698 (Online)
CN 11-6017/TK
Postal Subscription Code 80-972
Formerly Known as Frontiers of Energy and Power Engineering in China
2018 Impact Factor: 1.701

, Volume 12 Issue 2

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EDITORIAL
FEATURE ARTICLE
Redox flow batteries—Concepts and chemistries for cost-effective energy storage
Matthäa Verena HOLLAND-CUNZ, Faye CORDING, Jochen FRIEDL, Ulrich STIMMING
Front. Energy. 2018, 12 (2): 198-224.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11708-018-0552-4
Abstract   HTML   PDF (675KB)

Electrochemical energy storage is one of the few options to store the energy from intermittent renewable energy sources like wind and solar. Redox flow batteries (RFBs) are such an energy storage system, which has favorable features over other battery technologies, e.g. solid state batteries, due to their inherent safety and the independent scaling of energy and power content. However, because of their low energy-density, low power-density, and the cost of components such as redox species and membranes, commercialised RFB systems like the all-vanadium chemistry cannot make full use of the inherent advantages over other systems. In principle, there are three pathways to improve RFBs and to make them viable for large scale application: First, to employ electrolytes with higher energy density. This goal can be achieved by increasing the concentration of redox species, employing redox species that store more than one electron or by increasing the cell voltage. Second, to enhance the power output of the battery cells by using high kinetic redox species, increasing the cell voltage, implementing novel cell designs or membranes with lower resistance. The first two means reduce the electrode surface area needed to supply a certain power output, thereby bringing down costs for expensive components such as membranes. Third, to reduce the costs of single or multiple components such as redox species or membranes. To achieve these objectives it is necessary to develop new battery chemistries and cell configurations. In this review, a comparison of promising cell chemistries is focused on, be they all-liquid, slurries or hybrids combining liquid, gas and solid phases. The aim is to elucidate which redox-system is most favorable in terms of energy-density, power-density and capital cost. Besides, the choice of solvent and the selection of an inorganic or organic redox couples with the entailing consequences are discussed.

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RESEARCH ARTICLE
Electrochemical performance of thermally-grown SiO2 as diffusion barrier layer for integrated lithium-ion batteries
X. D. HUANG, X. F. GAN, Q. A. HUANG, J. Z. YANG
Front. Energy. 2018, 12 (2): 225-232.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11708-018-0556-0
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Direct integration of lithium-ion battery (LIB) with electronic devices on the same Si substrate can significantly miniaturize autonomous micro systems. For achieving direct integration, a barrier layer is essential to be inserted between LIB and the substrate for blocking Li+ diffusion. In this paper, the feasibility of thermal SiO2 film as the barrier layer is investigated by electrochemical characterization and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS). Due to the negligible side reactions of thermal SiO2 with electrolyte, the solid electrolyte interphase (SEI) layer formed on the surface of the barrier layer is thin and the SEI content mainly consists of hydrocarbon together with slight polyethylene oxide (PEO), LixPOyFz, and Li2CO3. Although 8-nm thermal SiO2 effectively prevents the substrate from alloying with Li+, the whole film changes to Li silicate after electrochemical cycling due to the irreversible chemical reactions of SiO2 with electrolyte. This degrades the performance of the barrier layer against the electrolyte penetration, thus leading to the existence of Li+ (in the form of F-Si-Li) and solvent decompositions (with the products of hydrocarbon and PEO) near the barrier layer/substrate interface. Moreover, it is found that the reaction kinetics of thermal SiO2 with electrolyte decrease significantly with increasing the SiO2 thickness and no reactions are found in the bulk of the 30-nm SiO2 film. Therefore, thermal SiO2 with an appropriate thickness is a promising barrier layer for direct integration.

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Nitrogen-doped graphene approach to enhance the performance of a membraneless enzymatic biofuel cell
Alireza AHMADIAN YAZDI, Jie XU
Front. Energy. 2018, 12 (2): 233-238.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11708-018-0529-3
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Heteroatom-doping of pristine graphene is an effective route for tailoring new characteristics in terms of catalytic performance which opens up potentials for new applications in energy conversion and storage devices. Nitrogen-doped graphene (N-graphene), for instance, has shown excellent performance in many electrochemical systems involving oxygen reduction reaction (ORR), and more recently glucose oxidation. Owing to the excellent H2O2 sensitivity of N-graphene, the development of highly sensitive and fast-response enzymatic biosensors is made possible. However, a question that needs to be addressed is whether or not improving the anodic response to glucose detection leads to a higher overall performance of enzymatic biofuel cell (eBFC). Thus, here we first synthesized N-graphene via a catalyst-free single-step thermal process, and made use of it as the biocatalyst support in a membraneless eBFC to identify its role in altering the performance characteristics. Our findings demonstrate that the electron accepting nitrogen sites in the graphene structure enhances the electron transfer efficiency between the mediator (redox polymer), redox active site of the enzymes, and electrode surface. Moreover, the best performance in terms of power output and current density of eBFCs was observed when the bioanode was modified with highly doped N-graphene.

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Effect of non-uniform illumination on performance of solar thermoelectric generators
Ershuai YIN, Qiang LI, Yimin XUAN
Front. Energy. 2018, 12 (2): 239-248.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11708-018-0533-7
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Solar thermoelectric generators (STEGs) are heat engines which can generate electricity from concentrated sunlight. The non-uniform illumination caused by the optical concentrator may affect the performance of solar thermoelectric generators. In this paper, a three-dimensional finite element model of solar thermoelectric generators is established. The two-dimensional Gaussian distribution is employed to modify the illumination profiles incident on the thermoelectric generator. Six non-uniformities of solar illumination are investigated while keeping the total energy constant. The influences of non-uniform illumination on the temperature distribution, the voltage distribution, and the maximum output power are respectively discussed. Three thermoelectric generators with 32, 18 and 8 pairs of thermocouples are compared to investigate their capability under non-uniform solar radiation. The result shows that the non-uniformity of the solar illumination has a great effect on the temperature distribution and the voltage distribution. Central thermoelectric legs can achieve a larger temperature difference and generate a larger voltage than peripheral ones. The non-uniform solar illumination will weaken the capability of the TE generator, and the maximum output power decrease by 1.4% among the range of non-uniformity studied in this paper. Reducing the number of the thermoelectric legs for non-uniform solar illumination can greatly increase the performance of the thermoelectric generator.

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Decoration of vertically aligned TiO2 nanotube arrays with WO3 particles for hydrogen fuel production
Heba ALI, N. ISMAIL, M. S. AMIN, Mohamed MEKEWI
Front. Energy. 2018, 12 (2): 249-258.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11708-018-0547-1
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WO3 decorated photoelectrodes of titanium nanotube arrays (W-oxide TNTAs) were synthesized via a two-step process, namely, electrochemical oxidation of titanium foil and electrodeposition of W-oxide for various interval times of 1, 2, 3, 5, and 20 min to improve the photoelectrochemical performance and the amount of hydrogen generated. The synthesized photoelectrodes were characterized by various characterization techniques. The presence of tungsten in the modified TNTAs was confirmed using energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDX). Field emission scanning electron microscopy (FESEM) and high resolution transmission electron microscope (HRTEM) proved the deposition of W-oxide as small particles staked up on the surface of the tubes at lower deposition time whereas longer times produced large and aggregate particles to mostly cover the surface of TiO2 nanotubes. Additionally, the incorporation of WO3 resulted in a shift of the absorption edge toward visible light as confirmed by UV-Vis diffuse reflectance spectroscopy and a decrease in the estimated band gap energy values hence, modified TNTAs facilitated a more efficient utilization of solar light for water splitting. From the photoelectrochemical measurement data, the optimal photoelectrode produced after 2 min of deposition time improved the photo conversion efficiency and the hydrogen generation by 30% compared to that of the pure TNTA.

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REVIEW ARTICLE
Liquid metal enabled combinatorial heat transfer science: toward unconventional extreme cooling
Xiao-Hu YANG, Jing LIU
Front. Energy. 2018, 12 (2): 259-275.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11708-017-0521-3
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As a class of newly emerging material, liquid metal exhibits many outstanding performances in a wide variety of thermal management areas, such as thermal interface material, heat spreader, convective cooling and phase change material (PCM) for thermal buffering etc. To help mold next generation unconventional cooling technologies and further advance the liquid metal cooling to an ever higher level in tackling more extreme, complex and critical thermal issues and energy utilizations, a novel conceptual scientific category was dedicated here which could be termed as combinatorial liquid metal heat transfer science. Through comprehensive interpretations on a group of representative liquid metal thermal management strategies, the most basic ways were outlined for developing liquid metal enabled combined cooling systems. The main scientific and technical features of the proposed hybrid cooling systems were illustrated. Particularly, five abstractive segments toward constructing the combinatorial liquid metal heat transfer systems were clarified. The most common methods on innovating liquid metal combined cooling systems based on this classification principle were discussed, and their potential utilization forms were proposed. For illustration purpose, several typical examples such as low melting point metal PCM combined cooling systems and liquid metal convection combined cooling systems, etc. were specifically introduced. Finally, future prospects to search for and make full use of the liquid metal combined high performance cooling system were discussed. It is expected that in practical application in the future, more unconventional combination forms on the liquid metal cooling can be obtained from the current fundamental principles.

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Unconventional hydrodynamics of hybrid fluid made of liquid metals and aqueous solution under applied fields
Xu-Dong ZHANG, Yue SUN, Sen CHEN, Jing LIU
Front. Energy. 2018, 12 (2): 276-296.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11708-018-0545-3
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The hydrodynamic characteristics of hybrid fluid made of liquid metal/aqueous solution are elementary in the design and operation of conductive flow in a variety of newly emerging areas such as chip cooling, soft robot, and biomedical practices. In terms of physical and chemical properties, such as density, thermal conductivity and electrical conductivity, their huge differences between the two fluidic phases remain a big challenge for analyzing the hybrid flow behaviors. Besides, the liquid metal immersed in the solution can move and deform when administrated with non-contact electromagnetic force, or even induced by redox reaction, which is entirely different from the cases of conventional contact force. Owing to its remarkable capability in flow and deformation, liquid metal immersed in the solution is apt to deform on an extremely large scale, resulting in marked changes on its boundary and interface. However, the working mecha- nisms of the movement and deformation of liquid metal lack appropriate models to describe such scientific issues via a set of well-established unified equations. To promote investigations in this important area, the present paper is dedicated to summarizing this unconventional hydrodynamics from experiment, theory, and simulation. Typical experimental phenomena and basic working mechanisms are illustrated, followed by the movement and deformation theories to explain these phenomena. Several representative simulation methods are then proposed to tackle the governing functions of the electrohydrodynamics. Finally, prospects and challenges are raised, offering an insight into the new physics of the hybrid fluid under applied fields.

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RESEARCH ARTICLE
Economic evaluation of reverse osmosis desalination system coupled with tidal energy
Changming LING, Yifei WANG, Chunhua MIN, Yuwen ZHANG
Front. Energy. 2018, 12 (2): 297-304.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11708-017-0478-2
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A reverse osmosis (RO) desalination system coupled with tidal energy is proposed. The mechanical energy produced by the tidal energy through hydraulic turbine is directly used to drive the RO unit. The system performances and the water cost of the conventional and tidal energy RO systems are compared. It is found that the proposed tidal energy RO system can save water cost in the range of 31.0%-41.7% in comparison with the conventional RO system. There is an optimum feed pressure that leads to the lowest water cost. The tidal RO system can save more costs at a high feed pressure or a high water recovery rate. The optimum feed pressure of the tidal energy RO system is higher than that of the conventional RO system. The longer lifetime of the tidal energy RO system can save even more water cost. When the site development cost rate is lower than 40%, the water cost of the tidal energy RO system will be lower than that of the conventional RO system. The proposed technology will be an effective alternative desalination method in the future.

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REVIEW ARTICLE
Magnetic confinement fusion: a brief review
Chuanjun HUANG, Laifeng LI
Front. Energy. 2018, 12 (2): 305-313.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11708-018-0539-1
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Fusion energy is considered to be the ultimate energy source, which does not contribute to climate change compared with conventional fossil fuel. It is massive compared with unconventional renewable energy and demonstrates fewer safety features compared with unconventional fission energy. During the past several decades, never-ceasing efforts have been made to peacefully utilize the fusion energy in various approaches, especially inertial confinement and magnetic confinement. In this paper, the main developments of magnetic confinement fusion with emphasis on confinement systems as well as challenges of materials related to superconducting magnet and plasma-facing components are reviewed. The scientific feasibility of magnetic confinement fusion has been demonstrated in JET, TFTR, JT-60, and EAST, which instigates the construction of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER). A fusion roadmap to DEMO and commercial fusion power plant has been established and steady progresses have been made to achieve the ultimate energy source.

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Energy modeling and data structure framework for Sustainable Human-Building Ecosystems (SHBE) — a review
Suraj TALELE, Caleb TRAYLOR, Laura ARPAN, Cali CURLEY, Chien-Fei CHEN, Julia DAY, Richard FEIOCK, Mirsad HADZIKADIC, William J. TOLONE, Stan INGMAN, Dale YEATTS, Omer T. KARAGUZEL, Khee Poh LAM, Carol MENASSA, Svetlana PEVNITSKAYA, Thomas SPIEGELHALTER, Wei YAN, Yimin ZHU, Yong X. TAO
Front. Energy. 2018, 12 (2): 314-332.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11708-017-0530-2
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This paper contributes an inclusive review of scientific studies in the field of sustainable human building ecosystems (SHBEs). Reducing energy consumption by making buildings more energy efficient has been touted as an easily attainable approach to promoting carbon-neutral energy societies. Yet, despite significant progress in research and technology development, for new buildings, as energy codes are getting more stringent, more and more technologies, e.g., LED lighting, VRF systems, smart plugs, occupancy-based controls, are used. Nevertheless, the adoption of energy efficient measures in buildings is still limited in the larger context of the developing countries and middle income/low-income population. The objective of Sustainable Human Building Ecosystem Research Coordination Network (SHBE-RCN) is to expand synergistic investigative podium in order to subdue barriers in engineering, architectural design, social and economic perspectives that hinder wider application, adoption and subsequent performance of sustainable building solutions by recognizing the essential role of human behaviors within building-scale ecosystems. Expected long-term outcomes of SHBE-RCN are collaborative ideas for transformative technologies, designs and methods of adoption for future design, construction and operation of sustainable buildings.

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