The development of renewable energies and the boost they are expected to experience in the coming years is inconceivable unless it is in conjunction with innovation and growth in energy storage systems, which are essential to obtain maximum profitability from non-constant energies. For this purpose, the use of new polymers is being explored to advance cost reduction in the manufacture of storage products and reduce the carbon footprint in the whole process.
Currently, polymers are used in lithium-ion batteries as additives and/or binders, but new batteries require polymeric innovations to address current technological challenges. For example, innovative redox-active polymers are needed for use as active materials in emerging polymer-based battery technologies such as polymer redox flow batteries (pRFBs) and hybrid organic batteries.
The advantages of using polymers include avoiding the use of toxic heavy metals, not needing to link the batteries to a refrigeration system to prevent overheating above a certain temperature, and high charge and discharge rates. Their characteristics make it possible for them to have a much lower environmental impact and contribute more efficiently to the decarbonisation of the planet.
Research in the company
As a specialised company in energy storage solutions with a focus on constant innovation, E22 is participating in POLYSTORAGE, a polymer battery research and development (R&D) project involving a European consortium with funding from the European Union and a small participation of Australian funds. The aim of this project is to train 16 researchers, PhD students, with individual projects in the areas of polymer science and electrochemical energy storage.
“Evolution of the energy system requires innovative energy storage. In this project, the focus is not only on technology development, but also on young scientists with great development potential,” explains Veselin Miroslavov Veselinov, product manager at E22.
The 16 selected people form an international, cross-sectoral and multidisciplinary research team consisting of 12 beneficiaries (8 European universities, 2 European research institutes, 2 European companies) and 11 project partners (2 academic institutions and 9 European companies).
“This kind of project gives us the opportunity to attract young talent to the R&D department, while at the same time allowing us to create platforms for knowledge exchange between the research sector and industry, establishing synergies between them,” says José Angel Horcajada, R&D material manager.
In the case of E22, it is an industrial partner involved in the design of a semi-industrial prototype polymeric redox flow battery using the polymers synthesised by other institutions during the project. To this aim, the company has recruited Athul Seshadri Ramanujam as a PhD student to work on the design. His work has started with a feasibility study of different polymer technologies and the comparison of these novel chemistries with mature technologies in the market. The findings of this techno-economic study will be the basis for the selection of the appropriate chemistry on which the design of the semi-industrial prototype will be built.
Athul Seshadri welcomes this opportunity to participate in a project to boost the energy transition. “As we are steadily transitioning from fossil fuels to renewables, parallel development of sustainable energy storage systems is necessary,” he says.
“Polymer-based redox flow batteries provide a pathway to progress towards cheaper and environmentally benign energy storage. Working at the R&D setting of E22 gives me an opportunity to design a battery from an industrial standpoint with an eye for the energy storage market,” he concludes.