Battery research a boost for renewable energy viability

Professor Guoxiu Wang, picture supplied

Professor Guoxiu Wang, picture supplied

In summary: 
  • Research by UTS's Centre for Clean Energy Technology promises more efficient, low-cost energy storage, from large-scale electricity networks through to portable devices
  • The work is being supported by partners including the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and automotive industry cooperative research centre AutoCRC

With news that renewable energy technologies are increasingly beating both fossil fuels and nuclear energy on costs, work by UTS's Centre for Clean Energy Technology on more efficient battery technology is helping lower one more hurdle to the ascendancy of clean energy.

Led by Professor Guoxiu Wang, the centre's research is focused upon the development of advanced battery technology and its applications in portable electronics and electric vehicles as well as renewable energy storage and conversion.

One of his current projects is funded by the AutoCRC and relates to the development of lithium ion batteries to power the next generation electric vehicles.

A team led by Professor Wang has also been backed by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to develop a low-cost, high density renewable energy storage system using lithium-sulphur batteries.

The three-year project has received a $750,000 investment from ARENA, as well as $1.24m industry support from Korea Electrotechnology Research Institute and DLG Energy Pty Ltd.

Professor Wang said lithium-sulphur battery technology is currently the most promising and cost-effective option for large-scale energy storage. "They have high energy density, long service life and also are safe to operate," he said.

"The focus of this project is to find a storage solution.  Solar energy is not continuous; it is only when you have sunshine that you can generate electricity. The same goes for wind and other renewable energy sources. We intend to develop a rechargeable battery that can store these renewable energy sources and make them available for later use."

The goal is a prototype battery product suitable for application in single dwellings, isolated communities, for government and energy industries in Australia and worldwide.

"Over the past year we have been focused on developing new, low-cost matrix carbon materials for lithium-sulphur batteries and an innovative conducting polymer coating technique for improving their cycle life," Professor Wang said.

"Meanwhile, we have also achieved some breakthroughs in the development of lithium-air batteries.

"Lithium-air battery systems can deliver ten times more energy than that of the current lithium ion batteries and represent a quantum jump in the development of sustainable energy storage and conversion.

"We have achieved the highest capacity of 30,000 mAh/g (milliamp hours per gram) using highly ordered porous graphene as the cathode in lithium-air batteries. We have also discovered that ruthenium nanocrystals can dramatically reduce the overpotential of lithium-air batteries, significantly improving their electrical efficiency."