Universities pioneer innovative chemistry for energy storage in Australia’s Net Zero quest

May 17, 2024

While renewable energy is vital to realising net zero, storage is key to securing constant supply. For many, batteries are synonymous with energy storage.

Image:

While renewable energy is vital to realising net zero, storage is key to securing constant supply. For many, batteries are synonymous with energy storage.

University of Sydney professor of chemistry Thomas Maschmeyer and his research group formulated lithium-sulfur batteries. These can store more energy than lithium-ion ones and are a lower-cost and safer alternative.

The team also developed a novel electrolyte flexible enough to fit different anode types. As a result, lithium-sulfur batteries can match different configurations to power drones, electric vehicles and even electric planes.

In 2015, Maschmeyer founded energy storage startup Gelion, a spinout of his research at The University of Sydney. The company has since announced breakthroughs in lithium sulfur batteries that double the range of EVs and enable electric aviation. It is now globally positioned with partners in the UK and the US, poised to integrate its sulfur cathode platform technology into products spanning all current lithium battery applications. All these successes were made possible by Maschmeyer and his research group’s foundational scientific work at the university level.

“Batteries help us use our energy resources more efficiently, allowing us to change the model from centralised power with long transmission lines to local power with short transmission lines,” Maschmeyer says. “We need batteries to support the energy transition.”

University science is making hydrogen storage breakthroughs possible as well. Kondo-Francois Aguey-Zinsou, also a professor of chemistry at the University of Sydney, is working on hydride materials for hydrogen storage. These materials include metals and lightweight chemical elements capable of absorbing hydrogen like a sponge and storing it in compact form. They can store hydrogen in larger amounts and more safely than hydrogen’s current liquefied or compressed gas form.

Building scientific expertise in universities helps accelerate the progress of energy storage. “We need storage technologies if we are to deploy renewable energy at scale,” says Aguey-Zinsou. “Hydrogen will be part of that mix.”

Writer: Rina Caballar

First published in Australian University Science, Issue 11

Related stories

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *