Aston University receives nearly half a million pounds to create safer and greener batteries

Posted on 29 Feb 2024 by The Manufacturer

Aston University researchers are to explore the use of gel electrolyte materials to make lithium-ion batteries - the most commonly used for electric vehicles and electronics - safer and less environmentally damaging.

The University has received a grant of £443,058 from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council to develop safe, reliable, sustainable and commercially relevant gel electrolyte materials.

Currently batteries and other energy storage devices are assembled via multiple laborious processing steps and typically use flammable solvents and fossil fuel-derived materials with poor thermal and chemical stability.

The researchers will develop renewable ionogels which conduct electrically charged ions.

The gel electrolyte materials will replace current harmful, flammable components and will help prevent batteries from leaking.

The Aston University team is led by Dr Matt Derry, a lecturer in chemistry, who is based in the University’s College of Engineering and Physical Sciences.

He said: “There is a need to identify new solutions for sustainable energy storage but one of the biggest barriers to the uptake of renewable energy is the lack of scalable methods of storing electrical energy.

“We will create recyclable gel electrolytes using non-harmful, non-flammable and renewably sourced materials for next generation battery technologies.”

In addition to the research grant to start on 1 March 2024, Dr Derry and his team have just had a paper published in Chemical Science, the Royal Society of Chemistry’s flagship open access journal: “Block copolymer synthesis in ionic liquid via polymerisation-induced self-assembly: a convenient route to gel electrolytes”, which showcases the generation of ionogels via their new approach.

He said: “This transformative research programme will deliver new sustainable, responsive ionogel materials which are easier to manufacture.

“The ionogels developed in this project will help to address the significant shortcomings in the underutilisation of renewable energy in the coming years and will contribute to the UK’s drive to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

“Given the desperate need for sustainable energy storage solutions, as recognised by the UN with Sustainable Development Goal 7 on affordable and clean energy, the proposed research is timely and impactful.”

As a result of the ongoing research, PhD student Georgia Maitland who contributed to the scientific paper will be employed as a post-doctoral researcher at Aston University.

The research project will end in February 2027.

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