ISE Report 2023: Never Want To Go Rhône
Another update from conference season from Julian Holland, who attended the International Society of Electrochemistry 74th Meeting in Lyon, France. Julian brings us up to speed on the academic lithium ion scene, as well as some other exciting electrochemistry insights.
When one thinks of Lyon, or southern France in general, it can sometimes be hard to think past the stunning vistas, excellent food, and rich history. However, for myself and the thousands of scientists who traveled to Lyon in early September of 2023 it will forever be associated with one of the largest, most exciting, and, frankly, exhausting electrochemistry conferences on the planet: The 74th Annual meeting of the International Society of Electrochemistry.
For those in the battery research scene, this was an essential chance to get a look at what other people were up to as well as show off your own latest research, or whatever you managed to squeeze into a PowerPoint deck. 180 of the 960 talks were battery related and I quickly realised that sampling the full breadth of what this conference had to offer was going to be impossible. Other topics that were discussed included fuel cells, supercapacitors, wearable biosensers, electrocatalysis, and many others. Electrochemistry is an incredibly broad subject area. Refocussing on our primary area of interest, batteries, I have made breakdown of the battery-related talks presented at this conference.
This graph gives insight into where the field is moving. Given the cutting-edge nature of conferences, the decisions to fund these particular areas of research were made recently. There were a couple of surprises for me in this figure. Firstly, the dominance that Li-ion still has. This is a 50-year-old technology yet researchers are still finding ways to innovate around or to dig deeper into the mechanisms at play. The second major surprise for me was the prevalence of redox-flow batteries. This was something that I had only heard about in passing. It will stick with me as one of the most interesting technologies I learned about.
The festivities started strong with electrochemistry legend, Alexei Kornyshev, giving a plenary talk discussing his recent work on electrochemical nanoplasmonics. These types of whacky material science oddities were rife at this conference and among them may well be the next big leap forward in battery technology. As well as the sci-fi-esque discoveries discussed, practical advice, industrial influence, and even a few new patents were on show.
From my perspective there were three major takeaways off the back of this conference.
Aluminium batteries are getting good. Paloma Almodovar of Albufera Energy Storage gave a very impressive talk about the recent developments made in the field of Al-air batteries as well as dropping a major teaser at the end of her talk that they have filed for a new patent for an Al-ion with a 200 Wh/kg energy density, making them competitive in the energy storage market. Al-ion batteries have several key advantages over their Li-ion counterparts, specifically low material cost. I managed to catch up with Paloma after the conference. She told me some further exciting news that her team are “preparing a European project call with some other people we met in Lyon”, testament to the powers of ‘good networking’ done at these types of conferences. When asked if she thought there was anything that the battery field should be talking about more she said that “people are still stuck in lithium” and wanted “more (material) diversity in the field”. Our barchart certainly appears to support the former of her conclusions.
Polymer Solid Electrolytes are back. One of the oldest battery electrolytes is not going anywhere and several talks have them teamed up with their solid electrolyte rival (ceramics, specifically LATP and LLZO) to form a composite with some impressive results. The new electrolyte uses the two compounds complimenting each other’s weaknesses and forming a harmonious union. Specifically, the major issues with ceramics, contact loss and interface stability, can be mitigated with polymer solid electrolytes that have better electrode contact and, often, larger electrochemical stability windows. Likewise, the ceramics, that have high ion transport, mitigate the polymers weaknesses, that have low ion transport, thus the blend is hoped to exhibit the best properties of both. Don’t just take my word for it, the preliminary results were impressive enough for the likes of Renault and solid state battery manufacturer Blue Solutions to dedicate full-time researchers to the subject. Thomas Basso-Bert (Renault), Hippolyte Houisse (Blue Solutions), as well as James Alfred Isaac, of the Institut polytechnique de Grenoble, led the charge presenting this interesting new technology. A full review on these exciting developments can be found here.
Redox flow batteries are becoming more diverse. This technology is seen as potential solution to grid storage due to their lack of capacity fade, ability to be scaled up at will, and, if we can find the right combination of materials, the prospect of using entirely ethical and environmentally friendly sourced material usage. The flow batteries work on the basic principle of electrolyte containing an active material being pumped to one electrode and being reduced or oxidised (hence “red-ox”) before returning to the tank.
The redox reaction involves the transfer of an electron which generates the power upon discharge. This type of chemical reaction is reversible, so the cell can be recharged by applying a current to the reverse reaction to the active material (where oxidised or reduced). Easy scalability combined with little-to-no degradation over time has finally proven too much for the battery world to ignore, with several working commercial examples out in the world as you read this. We made a map showing where Flow batteries are being commercialised.
Karim Boutamine of CNRS, gave a talk on using organic molecules as the driver for the electrochemical processes occurring in redox flow batteries (instead of the conventional vanadium oxide). This talk struck me as particularly impactful as this research sought to remove one of the key issues with current flow battery technology, the cost of Vanadium. Rebecca Marcilla of IMDEA Energy also presented some fascinating flow battery research focussing on removing the separator in the battery all together by just using two immiscible liquids (picture oil and water with some salty seasoning). A review on the current state of the technology can be found here.
After 5 long and grueling days of running from room to room situated impressively far apart from each other, reports of pelican and giraffe sightings in the local park, and an obscene amount of complimentary wine drank, we shuffled into the main amphitheater like a hoard of nerdy zombies to say goodbye. Next year the 75th annual meeting of the International Society of Electrochemistry will be held in Montreal, Canada.
List of Redox Flow Battery Companies
Austria - CellCube
China - Rongke Power
Denmark - VisBlue
France - KemiWatt
India - Delectrik
Singapore - V-Flow
South Korea - H2 Advance Energy Company
Switzerland - nanoFlowcell
The Netherlands - Elestor
🌞 Thanks for reading!
📧 For tips, feedback, or inquiries - reach out