The year 2023 is advancing and with it the developments and innovations in the battery sector. In today´s article we analyze the 5 concepts that will resonate the most this year; practically all of them closely linked to sustainability and the development of more environmentally friendly materials. Do you want to know which are they?

Anode-less electrochemical cells

The so-called anodeless batteries (specifically, without lithium metal anode) have attracted the attention of the battery industry due to the absence of pure lithium metal layers in the cell manufacturing process, which makes them easier to assemble, safer, less expensive and, of course, more sustainable.

However, one of the biggest challenges that the scientific community will face in 2023 is the reduction of efficiency in these devices due precisely to the deficiency of lithium in the device and the ultrathin layers and interfaces that act as anodes in these configurations.

At CIC energiGUNE we are already working on the development of protective coatings (ASEI), on the formation of stable interfaces, and on new solid electrolytes compatible with this technology. In other words, research aimed both at eliminating the reactivity of lithium metal and at making the deposition and growth of the different layers as homogeneous, compact and pure as possible.

Cobalt-free and manganese rich high energy cathodes

Until now, cobalt has been considered a key element in the manufacture of batteries, especially due to the electric vehicle boom. Moreover, according to a study by the Cobalt Institute in 2021, 34% of the cobalt extracted was destined for electric vehicles, to which should be added 31% destined for batteries for other types of devices.

However, 50-60% of the world´s cobalt resources are located in politically unstable countries and are extracted under questionable working conditions. In fact, the European Commission already identified it in 2017 as a critical raw material on which it wanted to reduce its dependence. Hence, cobalt-free lithium-ion cathodes are key to the future generation of electric vehicle batteries. 

However, reducing this critical raw material in cathodes without compromising energy and power performance is one of the biggest challenges for the scientific community. Hence, alternatives are being sought to compensate for the lack of cobalt with some other promising material that delivers the same performance.

One of the options that we will hear most about in 2023 are cathodes -without cobalt- with a high manganese content. We are talking about compositions such as LMO (lithium manganese oxide), LNMO (lithium nickel manganese oxide), Li-Mn-rich (also abbreviated as LMR-NMC) and LMP (lithium manganese phosphate) or LMFP (lithium manganese iron phosphate).

Among them, high voltage spinel LMNO, on which CIC energiGUNE is working in projects such as CoFBAT, 3believe, HighSpin and Nextcell, stands out as a promising alternative. 

Throughout 2023 we will see how research efforts will focus on accelerating their commercialization, in order to take these more sustainable batteries from the laboratory to real applications.


Water based and green electrodes

In a society that is becoming increasingly aware of the importance of sustainability, it is just as important to choose battery materials (that are not categorized as "critical materials") as it is to make the battery production process as environmentally friendly as possible.

That is why this year we are hearing more and more about the so-called green water-based electrodes. These refer to an alternative electrode manufacturing process that does not use toxic, environmentally aggressive and flammable solvents, thus opting for a much more environmentally friendly and sustainable production method.

This evolution requires certain adaptation processes in the manufacture of electrodes, but the trend in policies and regulations related to batteries leads us to believe that this bet will take the right path in the medium and long term.

Hybrid/double layer electrolytes

We have talked extensively about the advantages of solid-state batteries over liquid electrolyte batteries, thanks to the higher energy density, safety and cycling they offer. However, ionic conductivity and compatibility with high voltage/energy cathodes still remains a challenge for the scientific community.

In 2023, a new avenue of research opens up based on so-called hybrid solid electrolytes (HSE). This is a combination of polymeric and inorganic electrolytes that show promise by combining the advantages of these two types of solid electrolytes while overcoming the disadvantages of each component when used separately. In summary, this combination overcomes the challenge of ionic conductivity, and features reduced interfacial resistance between the electrolyte and electrodes, high mechanical robustness and excellent processability.

As in the case of HSE, there is another stream of electrolyte research set to revolutionize the solid-state battery industry. These are called dual-layer electrolytes, and refer to a lithium metal battery with electrolytes composed of layers made of different materials where each one fulfills a different specific function; such as improving the ionic conductivity of the total composite on the one hand, and protecting the most critical part from the high voltages provided by certain cathodes on the other.

This combination of materials has been shown to improve both the stability and the capacity of the device and is linked to a careful selection of lithium salts.

We will see in the coming months how the research on these two new currents evolves and which of them will reach the market in the next few years.

Computational aided material design

The race for electrification and decarbonization of transportation requires progress in battery development. And this progress requires an accelerated discovery of materials that make storage systems safer, cheaper, more efficient and longer lasting. In other words, they must meet the requirements of the automotive market.

There is, therefore, at present, a tireless research of the scientific community that performs hundreds of thousands of tests of materials in different conditions, to discover and verify those materials that really meet the requirements of the industry. A laborious and tedious research based on trial and error.

Hence, in 2023, the concept of computer-aided materials design will resonate (as it has been doing for some years now). A technique based on the use of artificial intelligence for automatic, efficient and effective learning of data generated from past successes and failures, and applied, in this case, to the chemical synthesis of materials for integration into batteries.

It is based on a series of algorithms that study and learn from the behavior of previously designed, manufactured and tested materials, and apply the improvements learned in the design of new and updated versions. This is a clear advantage in the discovery of materials that will undoubtedly accelerate the expansion of batteries and, at the same time, bring us closer to the desired zero-emission future. 

If you want to know more about the advances and innovative developments related to the area of batteries and electrochemistry in general, do not miss our updates on social networks, and our website.

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