The development of advanced storage technologies to enable the integration of sustainable energy sources in the electric grid represents a major challenge for our society. In the last years, lithium-ion batteries attracted great attention and became the most known and widespread battery system in our society. However, since they contain toxic and/or scarce metals, e.g., cobalt and nickel, as well as flammable solvents, the development of more environmentally friendly and safer battery technologies represents a priority. Additionally, this technology is limited when flexibility, low cost, or even higher energy density are important. POLYSTORAGE will tackle these limitations by developing highly innovative polymer electrolytes and polymer active materials for advanced post-lithium batteries.
Polymers are currently applied in lithium-ion batteries mostly as additives and/or binders. The next generation of energy storage technologies needs new polymer innovations to solve current technological issues. In particular, novel polymer electrolytes, being compatible with advanced electrode materials (e.g., sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, lithium-metal, sodium-air) and displaying high ionic conductivity and mechanical stability, as well as innovative redox-active polymers for the use as active materials in emerging polymer-based battery technologies (polymer redox-flow batteries (pRFBs) and hybrid organic batteries) are urgently needed. The new polymers will be optimized for processing in semi-automatic or fully automatic pilot lines and the best performing system will be scaled up and integrated in real cell configurations by an industrial partner.
The main scientific and technical objectives are:
- Synthesis of innovative polymer architectures with multiple functionalities (ionic/electronic transport, ionic/mechanical properties, and redox performance/high solubility).
- Investigation of the supramolecular organisation using cutting-edge techniques (high-res 3D imaging, cryo-TEM, cryo-STEM) to enable in-situ characterisation of the materials.
- Development and integration of significantly improved polymer electrolytes and polymer active materials for advanced battery technologies.
- Realisation of a semi-industrial redox flow battery system optimized for the new polymer-based chemistry.
- Upscaling of selected polymer electrolyte systems, which will be integrated in lab-scale prototype cells, and basic proof-of-concept engineering of a pilot plant.
The multidisciplinary aspect of POLYSTORAGE is reflected in the high number of research areas within the proposed program including polymer chemistry, ionic liquids, supramolecular self-assembly, polymer physics, advanced characterisation, electrochemistry, energy storage technologies, and engineering. The ESRs will benefit from a comprehensive training program featuring inter-sectorial and multidisciplinary technical courses, rich transferable skills training and international secondments with a strong focus on industrial experience. The POLYSTORAGE researchers will be capable of leading interdisciplinary research activities with a unique expertise. In this context, the POLYSTORAGE training network will serve as a European platform for outstanding doctoral training in the field of innovative polymers for next-generation electrochemical energy storage.
POLSTORAGE involves 16 excellent early-stage researchers (ESRs, 1 financed by Australian funds) in an international, intersectoral and multidisciplinary research team formed of 12 beneficiaries (8 European universities, 2 European research institutes, 2 European companies) and 11 project partners (2 academic organisation and 9 European companies). The individual projects in the fields of polymer science and electrochemical energy storage are embedded in the POLYSTORAGE research programme. Each ESR is hosted by one or two beneficiaries and will receive a multidisciplinary training through research at the hosting institution and during at least two secondments at other beneficiaries or partner organization of the POLYSTORAGE consortium. The successful completion of the training programme will result in the award of doctoral degrees in an intersectoral and multidisciplinary atmosphere including a complete training in complementary and transferable skills to enhance the future employability of the ESRs in both the academic and non-academic sector.