A new generation of greener batteries

Creating increasingly sustainable, high-performing, safe and low-cost materials for a new generation of green batteries is the goal of the all-Italian 4 million euro project ORANGEES[1], which comprises the Cnr (leader), ENEA, National Inter-university Consortium for the science and technology of materials, Italian Institute of Technology (IIT), Research on the Energy System (RSE) and Standex International Corp.

“The project wants to contribute to achieving the highly challenging objectives set at community level in the energy sector and implemented by Italy through the PNIEC, the Integrated National Energy and Climate Plan, currently updated in light of the recent geopolitical crises. The objective is to encourage innovation, sustainability and future new businesses towards the emerging sectors of the market along the entire value chain of the electrochemical storage device, by making more conscious choices, starting from the design of the battery of the future”, said Alessandra Di Blasi, researcher at the ‘Nicola Giordano’ Institute of Advanced Energy Technologies (Itae) of the Cnr, scientific director of ORANGEES.

The research activities concern the study of new materials, both hybrid (organic/inorganic) and entirely organic, obtained from waste from the agri-food industry (casein, whey, keratin, prickly pear and cellulose), with the objective of validating the new materials both for their electrochemical performance and to increase their environmental sustainability by decreasing the inorganic component in these storage systems, like lithium and cobalt, which are in the EU list of 34 critical raw materials.

ENEA will sort natural waste and by-products, verifying their use as raw materials to produce green membranes and electrodes. “This approach intends to reduce the critical issues associated to the disposal of batteries, creating new industrial synergies in accordance with the principles of the circular economy”, explained Mariasole Di Carli, researcher at the ENEA Laboratory for Energy Storage, Batteries and Technologies for Production and Use of Hydrogen and project manager.

The ORANGEES project includes five lines of research, three of which are dedicated to experimental activities on the materials used for components[2] of batteries and super capacitors. The first three experimental lines are aimed at the creation of hybrid components and the reduction of costs while maintaining the same performance, improve the storage performance (especially compared to lithium) and safety (with the development of semi-solid electrolytes).

The second line studies different types of organic compounds as potential substitutes for the materials present in current storage systems; new technological solutions will be validated to maintain the performance of “traditional” batteries, while reducing the environmental impact from production to disposal.

The third focuses on organic materials deriving from reuse of industrial waste, to identify easily available “green” solutions or coming from circular economy processes of other supply chains.

The most promising organic materials will be investigated through computer simulations, life cycle analyses and tests conducted jointly with Standex International to verify the potential benefit in terms of final electrochemical performance.

At present, lithium-ion batteries are the dominant energy storage system in the market for portable electronic devices and electric/hybrid-electric trucking systems. However, over the last decade, demand for lithium has increased rapidly and its consumption has grown by 7-10% per year. In such a scenario, there is an evident need to develop alternative chemicals for new energy storage systems that are based on abundant and cheap raw materials, to be integrated into the strategy of sustainable energy exploitation from renewable sources. Safety also remains an essential requirement and the issues associated with the use of flammable, volatile and toxic solvent-based liquid electrolytes still need to be addressed.

“The recent roadmap on electrochemical storage systems drawn up by the European technological platform ETIP Batteries Europe shows, in fact, how in the medium-long term evolution there are next-generation batteries based on new operating mechanisms (conversion and solid state systems) and alternative materials. Among those, organic compounds are are of interest, like those that will be developed and characterized within the ORANGEES project”, said Giulia Monteleone, Head of the ENEA Department of Energy Technologies and Renewable Sources.

 
For more information please contact:
Mariasole Di Carli, ENEA – Laboratory of Technologies and Devices for Electrochemical Storage, mariasole.dicarli@enea.it 
Alessandra Di Blasi, Institute of Advanced Energy Technologies ‘Nicola Giordano’, alessandra.diblasi@cnr.it

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