Considering Electrochemical Energy Conversion and Associated Materials

A paper published in Materials has focused on the recent developments in electrocatalytic materials for next-generation energy conversion and storage devices.

Study: Advanced Materials for Electrochemical Energy Conversion and Storage Devices. Image Credit: Fit Ztudio/Shutterstock.com

As world economies decarbonize, the urgent need for alternative energy generation and storage devices has become clear. Selecting materials with enhanced electrochemical properties for device components is central to their design.

Meeting Energy Demands for the Next Generation

Fossil fuel use, which has defined the energy mix since the Industrial Revolution, has caused massive environmental damage that must be swiftly addressed. Rising global temperatures, pollution, the interruption of natural cycles, and melting sea ice are all problems that are increasing at an alarming rate.

To address these issues and meet the energy demands of the world’s population with cleaner alternatives, electrochemical energy conversion and storage technologies are gaining research attention. There are three main types of devices that are increasingly being studied and deployed. These are batteries, supercapacitors, and fuel cells.

Batteries are widely used in consumer electronics. Supercapacitors are increasingly being explored for applications in innovative fields such as electric vehicles. Fuel cell technologies have been widely explored to provide clean and efficient energy storage for multiple applications.

Challenges

Despite their potential as clean energy conversion and storage devices, issues persist with the design of batteries, fuel cells, and supercapacitors. These issues include the efficiency of electrodes, the cost of membranes, and the stability of electrolytes. The issues limit their commercial viability and widespread adoption as alternatives to fossil-fuel-derived energy conversion and storage.

Lithium-ion batteries are the main proposed technology to meet rising energy conversion and storage demands and fill the gap in the energy mix left by the phasing out of fossil fuels. These devices are light and possess high energy density. Additionally, they do not use any toxic substances such as lead or cadmium and have no memory effect. Despite these advantages, enhancements in cycle life, cost, battery power, and safety are necessary to meet the requirements of applications.

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Battery performance depends on the properties of the electrolytes and electrodes. Enhancing the electrochemical properties of materials used for anodes and cathodes is key to meeting the demands of applications that use lithium-ion batteries.

Additionally, there are challenges with supercapacitors and fuel cells that need to be addressed to realize their commercial potential as demand for them increases in industry and society.

Investigating Strategies and Materials to Improve the Electrochemical Performance of Devices

The study published in Materials has investigated several areas of research into improving the electrochemical performance of batteries, supercapacitors, and fuel cells. The study’s findings will provide a useful knowledge base for future developments in clean energy conversion and storage research.

In the study, several novel cathode materials have been presented for lithium-ion batteries. Current research perspectives have been explored. One study highlighted in the special issue is that of Hussmes et al., who prepared a series of novel cathode materials doped with zinc, aluminum, magnesium, and iron. The authors of this study demonstrated that the doping element strongly influenced the cathode’s strain field and degree of cation mixing. Doping with aluminum and magnesium enhanced the cathode’s electrochemical properties.

Fuel cells are widely considered to be a premium choice for clean power conversion and storage applications. However, most hydrogen is produced from natural gas, which reduces its sustainable, green profile.

The main problem with hydrogen production from green sources using water electrolysis is cost, as the overpotential needed to split water molecules is high. Suitable electrode materials can reduce this overpotential. Selecting appropriate electrode materials can reduce this, in turn driving down green hydrogen production costs. Studies have been performed on nanostructured films for fuel cells with enhanced electrochemical properties. The paper highlights work by Cysewska et al. in this field.

Supercapacitors are a key technology in electrifying the transport sector due to their high-performance and storage capacities. However, issues with their energy density persist. A supercapacitor comprises two porous electrodes separated by an electrolyte. Electrodes can be constructed from materials including polymers and metal oxides. The paper has highlighted the work of Bhatt et al. on developing novel capacitor materials. Additionally, a study by Nofal et al. focusing on supercapacitor electrolytes is highlighted.

The Future

The paper published in Materials brings together research and guidelines for future research in developing electrode materials with enhanced electrochemical properties. This will inform future directions in the field of electrochemical energy conversion and storage, which is of vital importance for moving the world away from its over-reliance on environmentally damaging fossil fuels.

Further Reading

Santos, D.M.F & Šljukić, B (2021) Advanced Materials for Electrochemical Energy Conversion and Storage Devices [online] Materials 14(24) | mdpi.com. Available at: https://www.mdpi.com/1996-1944/14/24/7711

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Reginald Davey

Written by

Reginald Davey

Reg Davey is a freelance copywriter and editor based in Nottingham in the United Kingdom. Writing for News Medical represents the coming together of various interests and fields he has been interested and involved in over the years, including Microbiology, Biomedical Sciences, and Environmental Science.

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