Thursday, October 11, 2007

Questions about Plurion the Technology and the Company


Some Questions about Plurion and their Battery

is one of the exciting looking technology in Redox Battery development. They are claiming some really useful advances in the reliability and capacity of this type of storage.

However, there are a number of questions regarding the actual technology and about the
provenance of the company itself. These questions have been very well articulated by one of the correspondents to this blog. This person wishes to remain anonymous, I would guess because of connections with the business and/or work contracts. I totally understand and respect this need for keeping the head below the parapet.

The views published are the opinions of an individual.

The Letter:

I don't know how much you know about Plurion, which started life in California, around 2001, raised $1.5 million from J F Mackie, of Calgary, and a similar amount from Berens Energy, also of Calgary. In the last case, Plurion changed its name to Berens. However the investors were unhappy and, I believe, asked for their money back - and the company changed its name again, back to Plurion.

The underlying technology seems attractive, more so in many ways than the similar technology, the vanadium redox battery, developed by VRBpowersystems in Vancouver. (all of this information is on the web, if you care to look for it). You'll also find a piece entitled "The curious history of Plurion" by Bill Jamieson, financial columnist of The Scotsman.

There's only one small question - does the technology actually work ? The only hard technical information I've been able to locate was a presentation given at a meeting in San Francisco, in April 2002. At one time, this was included in the Plurion website. The data there was extremely promising - incl. a scale-up to 1 sq. metre, which would in fact meet your domestic requirements. But since then, as far as I am aware, total silence for 5 and a half years. Which, given that these guys are skilled self-publicists, I find distinctly ominous. That there appears to have been nothing newsworthy for that length of time, none of the usual developmental milestones, is very odd.

As someone who has been in the field myself, I can guess what the problem might be - which is the behavior of the zinc, which doesn't always "recrystallise" in the fine-grain structure that is necessary. But that's only a guess.

Leaving Plurion aside, you'll know it is a subsidiary of AIC, Applied Intellectual Capital, an AIM stockmarket quoted company. The people behind AIC have a long and - believe me - chequered history of failed R&D companies. I have little doubt that AIC will fail, as did its predecessor companies.

In the October issue of "Chemistry World" is a newsbrief to the effect that a major US wind farm operator have placed an order for a storage battery. They chose the sodium sulfur system, and presumably only after having surveyed the field. VRB have, they state, obtained an order from an Irish windfarm operator. So leaving aside whatever technical problems there might be, Plurion now have a catch-up exercise as well. In terms of energy density, VRB score lowest, then Plurion, with sodium sulfur highest. You might not wish to have to store 2000 liters of electrolyte on your premises (not that it's hazardous, just a lot of liquid to store).

Feel free to use any of the above comments in your excellent blog, any way you choose, but not quoting me.

Many thanks for this very informative and question provoking essay.


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