© Federico Scarpioni / University of Bremen

Bre­men Uni­ver­si­ty on the way to the next ener­gy stor­age generation

Researchers at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Bre­men are cur­rent­ly work­ing suc­cess­ful­ly on the next gen­er­a­tion of ener­gy stor­age sys­tems. Their goal is to pro­duce aque­ous zinc-ion bat­ter­ies that elim­i­nate any risk of explo­sion or fire. In the renowned sci­en­tif­ic pub­li­ca­tion Nature Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Pro­fes­sor Fabio La Man­tia and his team have now described the main chal­lenges that need to be over­come in the fur­ther devel­op­ment of the nov­el bat­tery technology.

The envi­ron­men­tal­ly friend­ly ener­gy sup­ply of the future is one of the most dis­cussed top­ics of our time. Our soci­ety must and wants to become inde­pen­dent of fos­sil fuels in order to reduce CO2 emis­sions and defy cli­mate change. “Green ener­gy” from renew­able sources such as wind farms and solar pan­els has received an unprece­dent­ed boost. But just as impor­tant as “har­vest­ing” the elec­tric­i­ty is devel­op­ing ever cheap­er and more envi­ron­men­tal­ly friend­ly ener­gy stor­age sys­tems. This is the only way to sta­bi­lize the pow­er grid in the future, because it has to be pro­tect­ed against pow­er peaks or blackouts.

“Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the already estab­lished ener­gy stor­age tech­nolo­gies — such as the wide­ly used lithi­um-ion bat­ter­ies — are sub­op­ti­mal in terms of envi­ron­men­tal friend­li­ness, cost-effec­tive­ness and safe­ty due to the very strict spec­i­fi­ca­tions of the sta­tion­ary ener­gy stor­age mar­ket,” says Pro­fes­sor Fabio La Man­tia, head of the “Ener­gy Stor­age and Ener­gy Con­ver­sion Sys­tems” depart­ment at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Bre­men. He and his team are there­fore research­ing in a dif­fer­ent direc­tion: “There is an emerg­ing green ener­gy stor­age tech­nol­o­gy based on abun­dant and inex­pen­sive metal­lic zinc. Aque­ous zinc-ion bat­ter­ies could solve the cur­rent problems!”

Water-based tech­nol­o­gy elim­i­nates hazards

Because this tech­nol­o­gy is water-based, any risk of explo­sion or fire is elim­i­nat­ed. In addi­tion — as the name sug­gests — zinc-ion bat­ter­ies con­sist main­ly of metal­lic zinc and oth­er most­ly inex­pen­sive and non-tox­ic mate­ri­als. This not only reduces the final price of green ener­gy, but at the same time reduces the risk of pollution.

Despite the good pre­con­di­tions, how­ev­er, aque­ous zinc-ion bat­tery tech­nol­o­gy is cur­rent­ly still far from large-scale com­mer­cial­iza­tion. Researchers at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Bre­men are focus­ing on over­com­ing the chal­lenges to make aque­ous zinc-ion bat­ter­ies mar­ket-ready. Fabio La Man­ti­a’s research group is focus­ing on the devel­op­ment of nov­el zinc-based anodes. They are designed to improve the sta­bil­i­ty and ser­vice life of zinc-ion bat­ter­ies. In addi­tion, the group is work­ing on the devel­op­ment of low-cost envi­ron­men­tal­ly friend­ly cath­ode mate­ri­als and the opti­miza­tion of water-based electrolytes.

Now, in the pres­ti­gious sci­en­tif­ic jour­nal Nature Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Pro­fes­sor La Man­tia and his team have described the impor­tant chal­lenges that the sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty will soon face in advanc­ing this nov­el bat­tery tech­nol­o­gy. In addi­tion, they have devel­oped guide­lines for good exper­i­men­tal prac­tice so that sci­en­tists from around the world can align their research efforts with indus­try stan­dards and needs. Fabio La Man­tia: “The goal is to accel­er­ate the com­mer­cial­iza­tion of this promis­ing envi­ron­men­tal­ly friend­ly bat­tery technology.”

About the research group

The research group “Ener­gy Stor­age and Ener­gy Con­ver­sion Sys­tems” was estab­lished in July 2015 in the Depart­ment of Pro­duc­tion Engi­neer­ing at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Bre­men in coop­er­a­tion with Fraun­hofer IFAM. It is made up of a group of young sci­en­tists work­ing in par­tic­u­lar on the elec­tro­chem­i­cal con­ver­sion of chem­i­cal ener­gy into elec­tri­cal ener­gy and devel­op­ing effi­cient meth­ods for ener­gy stor­age. The group address­es a vari­ety of dif­fer­ent top­ics in exper­i­men­tal elec­tro­chem­istry, with exper­i­ments sup­port­ed by phys­i­cal modeling.

Pro­mo­tion

The research of aque­ous zinc-ion bat­ter­ies in the research group of Pro­fes­sor La Man­tia is fund­ed by the Ger­man Fed­er­al Min­istry of Edu­ca­tion and Research (BMBF) through the project “ZIB” (FKZ 03XP0204A).

Link to orig­i­nal publication:

Gior­gia Zam­par­di, Fabio La Man­tia, “Open chal­lenges and good exper­i­men­tal prac­tices in the research field of aque­ous Zn-ion bat­ter­ies,” Nature Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, 2022, DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022–28381‑x, https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-022–28381‑x