Future of the battery industry

Work on the projects is performed mainly by scientists from the Polymer Ionics Research Group (PIRG) headed by Prof. Władysław Wieczorek, photo: archives

Work on the projects is performed mainly by scientists from the Polymer Ionics Research Group (PIRG) headed by Prof. Władysław Wieczorek, photo: archives

The 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded for the development of lithium-ion batteries. This contributed to increased interest in this subject and acceleration of research, including at the Warsaw University of Technology. What battery projects are specialists from our Faculty of Chemistry involved in?

Solutions for buildings and vehicles 

To develop insulation and energy storage modules (mainly with the use of photovoltaic cells) serving as building façades – this is the main goal of the POWERSKIN+ project, which is financed with EU funds from the Horizon 2020 program. The project focuses on designing zero emission buildings by using an efficient energy storage and management system. The energy storage and distribution system will be based on retired (second life) electric vehicle Li-ion batteries. 

Scientists from the WUT Faculty of Chemistry are responsible for selecting batteries from the electric car industry and then building batteries with a unit managing the storage and distribution of power at the building level. 

The project involves implementation of pilot installations located in three different sites in the territory of the European Union. 

“The project will extend the life cycle of Li-ion batteries in the market and, at the same time, generate savings thanks to efficient use of renewable energy,” says Michał Piszcz, Ph.D., Eng. of the Chair of Inorganic Chemistry at the Faculty of Chemistry, who coordinates the project on behalf of WUT. 

The project consortium consists of 14 partners. Teams from other WUT faculties are also involved – a team from the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and a team from the Faculty of Physics, headed by Mariusz Kłos, Ph.D., Eng., and Michał Marzantowicz, Ph.D., D.Sc., Eng., respectively. 

Another project funded under the Horizon 2020 program, ASTRABAT, aims to develop third-generation Li-ion batteries, i.e. all-solid-state batteries, mainly for the automotive industry. This technology should be fully European – with the entire production chain located in our continent, and at the same time available on a mass scale. This is very important, because demand for energy storage is growing fast. 

The project seeks to develop a new all-solid-state battery architecture, compatible with latest-generation high-capacity electrodes. This is the first time in the world that batteries with solid-state electrolytes working at room temperature are going to enter mass production. This will help increase their safety by avoiding flammable or leakable components. 

A team from the Faculty of Chemistry works on the development and production of key components for a new-generation solid-state electrolyte. They include lithium salts patented at WUT, including the first fluorine-free salt ever used in a battery and ionic liquid plasticizers. 

“The ASTRABAT projects will contribute to making electric cars fully price competitive with cars fueled by gasoline or diesel fuel,” says Leszek Niedzicki, Ph.D., D.Sc., Eng., who coordinates the project at the WUT Faculty of Chemistry. “Apart from the obvious benefit of no exhaust fumes, the batteries developed under the project will allow us to cover longer distances with electric cars and drive more safely in comparison to the vehicles currently available in the market.” 

A team of 7 scientists from the Faculty of Chemistry, working under the supervision of Prof. Władysław Wieczorek, Ph.D., D.Sc., Eng., is involved in the project. 

The power of Europe  

Just like ASTRABAT, the BIG-MAP project should also strengthen the position of Europe on the battery market. 

The goal of the consortium (composed of as much as 34 partners) is to develop assumptions for the production of lithium-ion batteries that would make Europe independent of production in Asian countries. Under this initiative, our specialists are responsible for synthesizing and testing new-generation electrolytes for lithium-ion batteries and new-generation post-lithium-ion batteries. 

These activities will ultimately lead to the development of a technology of manufacturing electrolyte components on a semi-industrial scale. The technologies to be developed in the project are based on technological solutions that originated at the WUT Faculty of Chemistry. 

 “In addition to its industrial value, the BIG-MAP project will contribute to understanding the ‘genome’ of the battery, i.e. the chemical composition of compounds that are generated inside the battery during its operation,” says Prof. Władysław Wieczorek, Ph.D., D.Sc., Eng., Dean of the WUT Faculty of Chemistry about the project he coordinates. “This will help design batteries with better performance and should streamline and accelerate the optimization of future batteries.” 

Apart from Prof. Wieczorek’s team, a team headed by Prof. Stanisław Ostrowski, Ph.D., D.Sc., Eng., is also involved in the project. Altogether, ca. 10 people from the WUT Faculty of Chemistry will work on the project over the 3 years of its duration. 

The goal of the Faraday Institution’s NEXGENNA initiative, on the other hand, is to revolutionize sodium battery technologies to make them price competitive with other methods of chemical energy storage. 

A multidisciplinary approach (covering a wide range of issues, from materials chemistry, to up-scaling, to battery production) should lead to the development of high-performance sodium-ion batteries with low production costs and a long life cycle. They will also be distinguished by their safety. 

“The NEXGENNA project will make it possible to introduce to the market, within a short time, batteries based on sodium – a metal which is cheaper and more common than lithium,” says Prof. Marek Marcinek, Ph.D., D.Sc., Eng., who coordinates the project at the WUT Faculty of Chemistry. “Thanks to solutions developed at Warsaw University of Technology, these batteries of the future will also be safer for the environment and for users.” 

Three scientists from the Faculty of Chemistry participate in the project. 

The BATTERY 2030+ project has equally ambitious aims. One of its goals is to develop a long-term roadmap for battery research in Europe. This can be achieved by radically transforming the way we discover, develop and design ultra-high-performance, durable, safe, sustainable and affordable batteries for use in real applications. 

The research is to be based on a chemistry neutral approach, which will enable implementation of the Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET Plan) proposed by the European Commission. Another important assumption of the project is to focus on the use of raw materials that are available in Europe and do not need to be imported. 

Prestige for WUT and support for students 

Prof. Wieczorek emphasizes the high value of all the above projects for the EU and Polish economies. Locating the entire production chain, from raw materials to finished goods, in Europe and developing complete European know-how will make the European Union energetically independent, as well as limit the production costs and the environmental impact. It will also create many new jobs. 

“Thanks to the research conducted at the Faculty I head, Poland makes a substantial contribution to the development of this huge European industrial sector,” says Prof. Władysław Wieczorek, Ph.D., D.Sc., Eng. “Apart from laying the foundations for a new branch of the new-generation battery and battery component production industry, we also train staff for this industry. Students of the WUT Faculty of Chemistry have regular contact with the most innovative technologies in the world, because they participate in these projects, working on their diploma theses in the teams involved in the projects. When working on their diploma projects, they use state-of-the-art equipment of the same class as the equipment used by industrial companies. As a result, they graduate from the University with up-to-date knowledge and are ready to start work in the industry.”