Imperial Innovations, the technology commercialisation partner for Imperial College London, announces the launch of RFC Power, a spinout from the labs of Professors Nigel Brandon and Anthony Kucernak, both experienced entrepreneurs and senior academics at Imperial College London. Professor Brandon is Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, and founded the AIM-listed fuel cell specialist, Ceres Power. Professor Kucernak is Professor of Physical Chemistry in the Faculty of Natural Sciences and has founded spinouts including PCB Fuel Cell company Bramble Energy, and Sweetgen, a company which generates energy from waste water. RFC Power is led by co-founders Dr Vladimir Yufit and Dr Javier Rubio Garcia, also a founder of Sweetgen.
RFC Power has developed and patented new technologies that mitigate issues linked to the cost and limited availability of the raw materials needed for batteries. RFC Power’s unique technology combines optimised cell architecture and low-cost chemistry in a hybrid gas-liquid redox flow battery, enabling extremely long cycle-life with negligible capacity loss over time.
The company is developing a proprietary flow battery solution that offers a significant cost saving over existing systems; its technology can reduce capital costs by up to 70% in the near term, and by potentially as much as 90% in the future. Flow batteries are a form of rechargeable fuel cell ideally suitable for stationary energy storage in a wide range of applications, including so-called grid applications such as load balancing, or off-grid applications such as providing storage for wind- or solar-energy generation. The technology is the result of more than eight years of research, which was supported by EPSRC.
Large capacity energy storage is required for both on-grid and off-grid applications, and the market is expected to grow to between €250 - €400 billion by 2040 (Bloomberg New Energy). Flow batteries are the most cost-effective option for this sort of energy storage.
RFC Power’s flow battery uses an electrolyte based on manganese, which is more abundant and available from a larger number of known reserves than other elements commonly used in flow batteries such as lithium and vanadium. This makes the system extremely cost-effective.
An early prototype has shown energy efficiency of over 80%, which is competitive with existing flow batteries. Three patents have been filed on the technology to date, which have been exclusively licensed to RFC Power.
The company is aiming to develop its first commercial systems by 2020. These will be modular, small-scale systems in the 1kW – 5kW range aimed at off-grid support for standalone wind and solar energy generation. In the long-term, RFC aims to develop 20kW – 100kW systems for grid applications and solar and wind farm support in the megawatts power scale range.
RFC Power has been funded initially with grants from Climate-KIC and the Repsol Foundation, and has recently secured a grant from InnovateUK.
Tim von Werne, Senior Technology Licensing Executive at Imperial Innovations, said:
“RFC Power is the first engineering company to launch under Founders Choice, and is backed by a very strong academic team with vast experience both in research and in the successful commercialisation of new technologies. We are pleased to announce its launch and I look forward to working with the team over the coming years.”
Dr Vladimir Yufit, CEO of RFC Power, said:
“The way energy is produced and distributed is changing, and cost-effective energy storage solutions are an essential component of the future landscape both in on- and off-grid applications. RFC Power has developed a solution based on abundant and low-cost components, while achieving competitive performance, and we look forward to developing and commercialising our technology.“