We interviewed Margret Wohlfahrt-Mehrens, Head of Electrochemical Materials Research Department at ZSW.

What are the major challenges battery technologies face in the coming 5 to 10 years?

In the last years, the main focus was improving energy density, but now the question is: Do we replace one dependency -the dependency from oil and gas- for the dependency of other raw materials like lithium, cobalt or nickel? What is clear (is that) if we go further on this line, we need huge amount of raw materials and, specially, Europe has to secure this raw materials.
First of all, we really have to develop a circular economy, this will be one of the major challenges for the future: design for recycling, better recycling routes -not going back only to some metals, but reuse the materials if possible-. Of course, we are now in the market entrance,in the growing phase, and recycling materials will not replace raw materials for the next years, but we have to be prepared to get all this raw materials back. We have to think about energy efficiency, adjusting all individual materials and process steps as energy-efficiently as possible.

Do you think we will meet the target set by the European Commission to reach zero emissions by 2050?

This is not only a technical question. Technological aspects are always driven also by economic or political aspects. And if we want to reach this, we also need a framework for this: A political framework with political conditions and clear visions, and also economic cases to fullfil this. On an economic sense but also on a political sense. This can be influenced by scientists, but this cannot be solved by scientists.

What would you say are the strengths of CIC energiGUNE as a research center?

I think that CIC energiGUNE is, in principle, a quite young research center, and it´s really a story of success from the beginning to now. It´s a very very known center, with international reputation. Also a center which goes to the right topics, not only working on fundamental basis, but also addressing more economic or more realistic challenges. I think that we need to be better in Europe to make this transfer from research to real product. In my opinion, this is also something which has been addressed by CIC energiGUNE.

How would you encourage young people to go for a career in the energy storage sector?

I only can encourage young people to go in this direction for, first of all, it´s a very social and a very important economic topic. Then, it´s really a multidisciplinary approach, this means it´s also a very interesting topic: to bring together this different challenges, also different solutions. And also a very bright future in academics and in industry. The industry in Europe will need thousands of researchers in the next years. I can only say: it´s very creative, it´s very interesting...Just do it!

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