Politics & Media
Batteries & energy transition
Batteries play a central role in the energy transition and for the transport sector. Energy from renewable sources - such as wind and sun - must be stored temporarily, as it is otherwise not available at all times. Efficient solutions to this issue are offered by batteries that can store electricity temporarily and release it again, and which exhibit comparably little energy losses. The importance of compact home storage units in households or larger neighbourhood storage units in residential areas is growing steadily. At the same time, batteries have enabled the emergence of e-mobility. Over the last 15 years, developments in battery research and production engineering has increased the range of electric cars from around 300 to 600 km.
Lithium-ion batteries are currently the most powerful batteries in terms of the available electrical energy per volume and weight of the battery. However, the chemical elements contained in them cannot be used sustainably in the medium and long term. The extraction of the components such as cobalt, graphite and lithium entails political, ecological and economic risks. The European Commission even fears supply bottlenecks due to resource scarcity and the uncertain political situation in some countries with large deposits. Moreover, in many cases cobalt mining takes place under inhumane conditions and is associated with high environmental impacts. For these reasons, our battery researchers are developing more sustainable alternatives that no longer rely on lithium and the other critical materials. Instead, they are based on elements such as sodium, magnesium, calcium, aluminium or chlorine. Such so-called post-lithium batteries, in addition to improved sustainability, have the potential to store more energy, be safer and offer a more cost-effective option for various mass applications.
How is battery research done?
In order to improve applications such as stationary storage, electric cars, and smartphones, their batteries must also be better understood and developed as well. Battery research is an interdisciplinary field in which chemists, physicists, materials scientists, and engineers work closely together. Their aim is to build batteries that store more energy, are lighter, have a longer life, and are more sustainable and have a lower price than conventional lithium-ion batteries. Battery researchers are searching in the laboratory for the perfect mixture of around one hundred elements and various process technologies. The smallest details, such as varying the drying process of a battery electrode or the exchange of a binder, can have an enormous influence during the charging and discharging process. Once a promising combination has been found, the battery is assembled and tested at different temperatures in thousands of charging and discharging cycles. In addition to the experimental work in the laboratory, the researchers try to understand the processes in a battery using elaborate computer models in order to draw conclusions for real applications.
Roadmap for Battery Research in Europe - 09/04/2020
The European Research Initiative BATTERY 2030+ Presents Goals – Research Platform CELEST with KIT, Ulm University, and ZSW Participates
To develop tomorrow’s batteries, partners from science and industry all over Europe have launched the research initiatve BATTERY
2030+. Now, a roadmap defines the milestones in more detail: A joint platform for the development of materials with the help of artificial intelliegence (AI), networked sensors and selfhealing technology for batteries, and sustainable production and recycling processes.
Festive launch of 'excellent' energy research - 26/03/2019
Research platform CELEST and Cluster of Excellence POLiS inaugurated
Germany's largest electrochemical energy research platform was officially launched today, Tuesday, 26 March: At the Center for Electrochemical Energy Storage Ulm & Karlsruhe (CELEST), researchers from various disciplines are developing high-performance and environmentally friendly energy storage systems – which are urgently needed for a successful energy revolution and climate-friendly electric mobility. State Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), Christian Luft and head of the Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts Baden-Württemberg, Ulrich Steinbach, attended the inauguration ceremony at the Helmholtz Institute Ulm to honour the platform's first outstanding success: In the highly competitive Excellence Strategy of the federal and state governments the partners acquired Germany's only Cluster of Excellence in battery research.