Deakin Uni leads research hub looking beyond lithium for next generation batteries | RenewEconomy

Deakin Uni leads research hub looking beyond lithium for next generation batteries

A new research hub will work to improve the safety and reliability of energy storage technologies, including batteries.

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The University of Wollongong's Professor Zaiping Guo. (supplied)

Deakin University will host a new research centre for ‘safe and reliable’ battery storage technologies, after winning a $5 million grant from the Australian Research Council.

The Research Hub in New Safe and Reliable Energy Storage and Conversion Technologies will explore new ways of deploying new battery technologies in real world conditions, including reducing the risk of fire.

Professor Ying Chen, who will lead the research hub, said the research outcomes from the hub would have a range of applications across battery technologies, including both consumer electronics and large-scale energy storage systems and electric vehicles.

“One main goal is to develop new safe, efficient and sustainable energy storage and conversion technologies to eliminate the very serious fire risk and environmental issues caused by current technologies,” Professor Chen said.

“Doing so will be a major societal advance. Energy reliability and sustainability are critically important to our society, and nowhere more so than in energy storage. Current energy technologies are reliant on the production of more than one billion lithium-ion batteries every year, to power consumer electronics alone.”

“The research will deliver a new generation of technologies for storage, from small-scale portable devices to large-scale industrial applications, using recycled and natural materials, and eliminating the serious fire risk in current technologies,” University of Wollongong professor Zaiping Guo, who will contribute to the research hub, said.

The researchers expect to be able to achieve significant advancements in the energy density of advanced battery technologies, allowing for more energy to be stored within devices without adding to the weight of a battery, or the space needed to store it, crucial advances that will particularly benefit electric vehicles.

“Such staggering numbers of batteries bring with them significant issues around sustainability, end-of-life recycling, and disposal. Another challenge we face is the unsatisfactory energy density and slow charging performance of current lithium-ion batteries,” Professor Chen added.

“They cannot meet the increasing demands from widespread and emerging applications including electric vehicles, portable devices (i.e. smart phones) and a vast number of industry tools.”

The research hub will receive $5 million in federal government funding through the Australian Research Council over the next five years and will involve a collaboration between Australian and international research organisations, as well as a range of industry partners.

The hub will bring together researchers from Deakin University, along with others at the University of Wollongong, University of Sydney, University of Adelaide, University of Queensland, and University of Southern Queensland.

A range of battery and energy storage providers will also contribute as research partners, including hydrogen technology company Hazer Group and leading Chinese battery manufacturer DLG Battery.

Part of the research focus will be building the capacity for Australia to utilise its significant reserves of raw battery materials, such as lithium, nickel and copper, helping Australia to take advantage of its natural competitive advantage in an emerging battery industry.

“Our Government is investing in these research hubs to push the boundaries of our knowledge and to develop solutions that benefit Australians and improve the capacity of our university and industrial sectors,” federal education minister Dan Tehan said.

“Our Government is investing in research that will foster strategic partnerships between university-based researchers and industry organisations, to find practical solutions to challenges facing Australian industry.”

Australia has established a number of research hubs, looking to position Australia as a world leader in energy storage innovations.

The Western Australian government has sought to establish a $135 million Future Battery Industries Cooperative Research Centre, based at Curtin University, which was successful in securing $25 million in funding from the federal government last year.

Earlier in the year, researchers from Monash University published the results of research into long-range battery storage technologies, that could unlock electric vehicle mileage of more than 1,000 kilometres on a single charge.

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