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A compound used widely in candles offers promise for a much more modern energy challenge—storing massive amounts of energy to be fed into the electric grid as the need arises.

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have shown that low-cost organic compounds hold promise for storing grid energy. Common fluorenone, a bright yellow powder, was at first a reluctant participant, but with enough chemical persuasion has proven to be a potent partner for energy storage in flow battery systems, large systems that store energy for the grid.

Development of such storage is critical. When the grid goes offline due to severe weather, for instance, the large batteries under development would kick in, boosting grid resilience and minimizing disruption. The batteries can also be used to store renewable energy from wind and solar, for use when the winds are quiet or the sun's not shining.

Details of the research, supported by DOE's Office of Electricity, are published in the May 21 issue of the journal Science.

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