(Bio-)Polymer Electrochemistry and Next Generation Batteries
Lithium secondary batteries are the current gold standard of battery technology and hence ubiquitous in today’s everyday life. Using portable electronic devices like smartphones or tablet computers as well as electric cars is only possible because of the development of lithium batteries due to their high energy storage capabilities. However, in order to increase the range of electric cars, life of batteries, or speed of processors, new battery systems need to be developed since lithium secondary batteries will reach their technical limit soon.
The possibility to store plenty of energy in little volumes is crucial for future development, but also further aspects become more and more important:
- Safety concerns require the battery components to be non-flammable and non-toxic
- Economic concerns stimulate the search for cheaper materials than lithium, which is rather rare on earth
- Environmental concerns necessitate the search for recyclable battery parts and less harmful, lower energy-consuming manufacturing processes
We focus on all of these points, following especially two approaches:
Firstly, we investigate potential magnesium batteries. They will be able to store much more energy than current lithium ion batteries (potentially twice as much in case of magnesium ion batteries and 25 times as much in case of magnesium air batteries); additionally, they are supposed to be less dangerous (while lithium metal reacts heavily with moisture, magnesium is more inert) and cheaper (there is more than 1000 times as much magnesium in the continental earth crust compared to lithium).
Secondly, we research on battery parts from renewable resources. Biomolecules that take part in electrochemical processes in plants and animals might also be usable in batteries. Potential batteries might be made from renewable resources, e.g., from plant polyphenols. The resulting battery parts would be environmentally benign (carbon neutral), inexpensive (since they were made from renewable resources), and hazard-free (no spontaneous combustion, no strong acids or bases involved).