Shedding Light on the Workings of Energy Storage Materials

Energy generation and energy storage related applications require some of today’s most complex materials development initiatives to meet efficiency and reliability targets.

Many of our electronic devices, from laptops to smartphones, are powered by rechargeable lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries, and they could soon extend into many other areas as well. This includes transport, through the ongoing development and adoption of electric vehicles. New materials are continuously being developed that transform the ways we capture, transmit, and store energy.

Clare Grey

British chemist, Clare Grey, of the University of Cambridge pioneered the optimization of batteries using Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and sees her research as an important contribution to achieving the European Union’s stated goal of climate neutrality by 2050.

Her current research investigates cost-effective and durable storage systems for electricity from renewable sources. Current batteries, such as those in mobile devices like smartphones, typically have a short life span. Even modern electric vehicles have a seven-to-ten-year lifespan. Grey’s research looks at advancing new battery technology using renewable energy and increasing their lifespan.

Grey and her team are working on the development of a new battery – the lithium air battery which uses oxygen from the air as a reagent with lithium to increase the battery’s energy density tenfold. The lithium air battery is a game changer in terms of creating a sustainable, climate-friendly energy supply.

Clare Grey, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Cambridge, UK, focusing on battery and fuel cell research


Gillian Goward

The research group of Gillian Goward at Mc Master University in Ontario, Canada aims to apply advanced solid-state NMR techniques, in combination with electrochemical characterization, to the study of materials of interest as chemical power sources. Proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEM-FC) and secondary lithium ion batteries provide environmentally friendly energy alternatives. As yet under-exploited is the unique advantage of solid-state NMR for investigating the protons in PEM-FCs, and the lithium ions in Li-ion rechargeable batteries, which can be thought of as the “work horses” of these two systems. Solid-state NMR is well known for its ability to provide site-specific information on structure and dynamics. Processes and interactions such as hydrogen-bonding, ionic conductivity, and polymer chain ordering or mobility can be effectively probed. In recent years, the field of solid-state NMR has experienced rapid technological and methodological growth, allowing a broader range of materials questions to be addressed.

Gillian Goward, Professor of Chemistry at Mc Master University, Canada, focusing on energy storage research