Affordable High-Energy Eco-Friendly Materials for Efficient Energy Storage
Novel materials allow superior energy storage while reducing costs and improving environment friendliness
Clean and sustainable energy storage and production are essential to meet the growing demand for energy. However, long-term natural resource scarcity is an impediment to achieving this objective. Advanced materials science and engineering are on the cutting edge of creating viable solutions to complex energy problems. The result of one such endeavor is the current research initiative of World Universities Network researchers, which aims to develop unique non-toxic electrode materials for high-energy-density rechargeable batteries.
There are limited natural resources in the world and they are getting depleted at fast rates. The use of fossil fuels further stresses the environment by emitting CO2,which is the main cause of global warming and environmental pollution. Therefore, the supply of alternative green renewable energy needs to be a top priority globally. Simultaneously, energy needs to be stored and transferred efficiently to harness the full benefits of renewable energy systems.
Most large-scale energy storage devices, however, use toxic and expensive transition metals as their electrode materials. For sustainable grid-scale energy storage, there is a perpetual need for abundant, low cost, and non-toxic electrodes. As Professor Watchareeya Kaveevivitchai of National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) in Taiwan, a prominent researcher with the Asia Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Group project, explains, “The majority of materials used in today’s commercially-available lithium-ion batteries are still based on toxic metals such as cobalt and nickel, which are known to be carcinogenic. Overexposure to these metals can cause irritation and allergies and may even affect the body’s internal organs. Furthermore, their availability is another concern. For example, cobalt is rare and costly, and is therefore difficult to procure for mass production.”
To solve this problem, researchers led by Prof. Kaveevivitchai are designing and developing advanced functional materials as alternatives to the toxic electrode materials traditionally used in energy storage devices. The team, which comprises Prof. Teng-Hao Chen from NCKU, Dr. Huan Doan from the University of Bristol, and Prof. Wei Gao, Dr. Shanghai Wei, and Prof. Mohammed Farid from the University of Auckland, has concentrated its efforts on three distinct but related areas to achieve this objective: (1) development of conductive electrode materials containing very low amounts of toxic metals, (2) synthesis of polymeric porous materials based on abundant and environment-friendly components as battery electrodes, and (3) design of ionic-conductor functional materials as solid-state electrolytes for improved electrochemical performance of the energy storage devices.
The complex nanostructures of these materials make them a superior choice over the conventional transition-metal-based compounds currently in use. Additionally, these new materials are abundant, inexpensive, and more environmentally friendly. They also provide attractive specific capacities. The organic materials developed by the team, for instance, offer a high energy density with good rate capability.
The team spotlights their novel creation—hexaazatrianthranylene (HATA) embedded quinone (HATAQ), which is an organic small electron-acceptor-molecule. By introducing conjugated quinone moieties into the electron-deficient hexaazatriphenylene-derivative core, HATAQ, with highly extended π-conjugation, can yield extra-high capacity for metal-ion storage.
Discussing this, and other research products their team is working on, Prof. Kaveevivitchai remarks “Organic electrode materials possess many advantages, such as low cost and environmental friendliness. They also contain a large number of redox active sites capable of undergoing a multi-electron-transfer process at a redox potential, which, if properly fine-tuned, can lead to a high energy density.”
The team has reported the findings of their work in over 20 publications since July of last year. More is yet to come. In addition, now, with the lifting of the COVID-19-related travel restrictions, the team members are looking for more productive engagement with research collaborators across borders.
Natural resources are dwindling worldwide. This crunch is badly affecting clean energy production and utilization as well. To ensure sustainable production and consumption of clean energy, there is a need for developing greener, less toxic energy storage materials. Being able to store energy in an affordable and sustainable way is an important milestone in the direction of achieving SDG-7.
Title of original paper
Watchareeya Kaveevivitchai1, Teng-Hao Chen1, Huan Doan2, Wei Gao3, Shanghai Wei3, Mohammed Farid3
High-Capacity Energy Storage Based on Affordable and Environmentally-Friendly Materials.
Asia SDGs Group Report
2University of Bristol
3University of Auckland
Image title: New non-toxic material alternatives for greener energy
Image Caption: New sustainable energy storage materials will enable a brighter future in harmony with the environment, suggest project findings of NCKU-led research team
About Professor Watchareeya Kaveevivitchai
Prof. Kaveevivitchai Watchareeya is an assistant professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) in Taiwan. Her research interests include energy storage technologies, functional redox-active materials, Li-ion batteries, and porous functional materials. She is also an expert in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).