Aston University to research safer and greener batteries

Aston University has received a £443K grant from the EPSRC to explore the use of gel electrolyte materials to make lithium-ion batteries safer and less environmentally damaging.

Adobe Stock

According to the researchers, current batteries and other energy storage devices are assembled via multiple laborious processing steps and typically use flammable solvents and fossil fuel-derived materials with poor thermal and chemical stability.

With the EPSRC grant, the Aston University researchers aim to develop renewable ionogels which conduct electrically charged ions, which they claim could replace current harmful, flammable components and will help prevent batteries from leaking.

The research intends to provide a greener and safer alternative to lithium-ion batteries in particular, the most commonly used for electric vehicles and electronics.

In a statement, study lead Dr Matt Derry, who is based in the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences and a lecturer in chemistry at the university, said: “There is a need to identify new solutions for sustainable energy storage but one of the biggest barriers to the uptake of renewable energy is the lack of scalable methods of storing electrical energy.

“We will create recyclable gel electrolytes using non-harmful, non-flammable and renewably sourced materials for next generation battery technologies.”

In addition to the research grant which is set to begin on March 1, 2024, Dr Derry and his team have published a paper in Chemical Science, ‘Block copolymer synthesis in ionic liquid via polymerisation-induced self-assembly: a convenient route to gel electrolytes’, which showcases the generation of ionogels via their new approach.

“This transformative research programme will deliver new sustainable, responsive ionogel materials which are easier to manufacture,” said Dr Derry.

“The ionogels developed in this project will help to address the significant shortcomings in the underutilisation of renewable energy in the coming years and will contribute to the UK's drive to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

“Given the desperate need for sustainable energy storage solutions, as recognised by the UN with Sustainable Development Goal 7 on affordable and clean energy, the proposed research is timely and impactful.”

The research project will run from March 2024, to February 2027.