Project kicks off for greener and better performing batteries

ORANGEES is an ambitious 4 million euro project focused on the development of advanced materials for a new generation of green batteries. The all-Italian partnership includes the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (CNR) as lead partner, together with ENEA, the National Interuniversity Consortium for Materials Science and Technology, the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT), Ricerca sul Sistema Energetico (RSE) and Standex International Corp. The primary goal is to create increasingly sustainable, high-performance, safe and low-cost batteries to support the transition to a greener energy future.

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Increasingly sustainable, high-performance, safe and low-cost advanced materials for a new generation of green batteries: this is what ORANGEES, a 4 million euro project, is intended to develop. The project involves an all-Italian partnership made up of the National Research Council (lead partner), ENEA, the National Inter-University Consortium for Materials Science and Technology, the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT), Ricerca sul Sistema Energetico (RSE) and Standex International Corp.

“The project is aimed at contributing to the achievement of the highly challenging objectives required at EU level in the energy sector and implemented by Italy through the PNIEC, the National Integrated Energy and Climate Plan, currently updated in light of the recent geopolitical crises. The objective is to foster innovation, sustainability and future new business towards what will be the emerging market sectors along the entire value chain involving the electrochemical storage device, through more conscious choices, starting with the design of what will be the battery of the future,’ says Alessandra Di Blasi, a researcher at the CNR’s ‘Nicola Giordano’ Institute of Advanced Energy Technologies (Itae) and scientific head of ORANGEES.

The research activities are aimed at studying new materials, both hybrid (organic/inorganic) and purely organic, obtained from agro-food industry waste (casein, whey, keratin, prickly pear and cellulose). The aim of the project is to validate the new materials both for electrochemical performance and to increase their environmental sustainability by decreasing the inorganic component in these storage systems, such as lithium and cobalt, metals that are on the EU list of 34 critical raw materials.

Specifically, ENEA will sort natural waste and by-products and test their use as raw materials to produce green membranes and electrodes. “This approach is intended to reduce the critical issues associated with battery disposal, creating new industrial synergies in accordance with the principles of the circular economy,” explains Mariasole Di Carli, researcher at the ENEA Energy Storage, Batteries and Technologies for the Production and Use of Hydrogen Laboratory and project leader for the Agency.

The ORANGEES project comprises five research lines, three of which are dedicated to experimental activities on materials used for battery and super capacitor components. The first of the three experimental lines is oriented towards the realisation of hybrid components and the lowering of costs with the same performance, but also towards the improvement of storage performance (especially with respect to lithium) and safety (with the development of semi-solid electrolytes).

The second experimental line focuses on the study of different types of organic compounds as potential substitutes for the materials in current storage systems; new technological solutions will be validated to maintain the performance of ‘traditional’ batteries, while at the same time reducing the environmental impact, from production to disposal. The latter aspect is even more central in the third line of research focusing on organic materials from the reuse of industrial waste, in order to identify ‘green’ solutions that are easy to find or come from circular economy processes in other supply chains.

The most promising organic materials will then be investigated through computer simulations, life-cycle analyses and tests conducted in cooperation with industry partner Standex International to verify the potential benefit in terms of final electrochemical performance.

At present, lithium-ion batteries are the dominant energy storage system in the market for portable electronic devices and electric/hybrid-electric vehicle systems. However, over the past decade, the demand for lithium has increased rapidly and its consumption has grown by 7-10% per year. In such a scenario, there is a clear need to develop alternative chemistries for new energy storage systems that are based on abundant and cheap raw materials, to be integrated into the strategy of sustainable exploitation of energy from renewable sources. Safety also remains an essential requirement and the problems associated with the use of liquid electrolytes based on flammable, volatile and toxic solvents still need to be addressed.

“The recent roadmap on electrochemical storage systems drawn up by the ETIP Batteries Europe technology platform shows, in fact, how evolution in the medium to long term looks to next-generation batteries based on new operating mechanisms (conversion and solid-state systems) and alternative materials. Among the latter, organic compounds, such as those that will be developed and characterised within the ORANGEES project, are of interest,’ concludes Giulia Monteleone, director of the ENEA Department of Energy Technologies and Renewable Sources.

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