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Up-and-coming: R&D in energy storage technologies
ETN connected with Prof Yi Cui, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Stanford University, and Faculty Co-Director of Stanford's StorageX initiative, to understand the institution's aim to address gaps between academic and industrial R&D and accelerate the development and implementation of pathbreaking energy storage technologies and concepts.
In the next few years which emerging technologies, in your view, will pick up momentum?
In the next 5-10 years, it would still be lithium-based battery playing the major role in the electric transportation sector. Si anodes will be implemented as anodes co-existing with graphite anodes for increasing the energy density to about 400Wh/kg. In the stationary storage sector, there will be non-lithium chemistries such as Ni-H2, sodium ion and redox flow coexisting with lithium-ion batteries.
What kind of collaboration does your institute have with the companies working in energy storage space?
At Stanford, we have established research collaboration with the whole value chain in the energy storage space, including materials supplier, battery manufacturing, automobile, energy, electric grid. The companies have provided generous funding support to our research programs and shared their industrial insights on the important problems they are facing. This collaboration has built very strong academy-industry partnership, important for implementing clean energy technology.
What next-generation innovation work is your institute involved with in the field of energy storage and e-mobility?
We launched an exciting initiative in 2019: StorageX. We organized our faculty and students together to address the grand challenges in energy storage. We have generated innovative works to address the following challenges:
• Sustain the cost learning curve of batteries
• Identify pathway to energy dense, high power, safe and long-lasting batteries
• Battery fast charging
• Enable circular economy through re-use, recycling, and regeneration
• Leverage informatics and artificial intelligence to accelerate the pace of R&D
What are some of the battery chemistries and R&D activities you are currently working on, in terms of battery energy storage?
I am working on high energy density battery chemistries, which can double or triple the energy density of the existing lithiumion batteries. These chemistries include silicon anode, lithium metal anode and sulfur cathode. I also work on new type of low-cost and scalable chemistry for grid-scale storage such as Mn-H2 and Ni-H2 batteries.
As an institute, what kind of support do you need, and what are some of the challenges faced if any?
At Stanford, we are constantly seeking strong support in the following areas:
• Funding from industry and government agencies to support our faculty members and students, to work on the creative ideas they generate
• Partnership with the industry, to understand the core issues they are facing and work closely to address them
• State-of-the-art facility to study the challenging scientific problems, not possible in individual faculty's lab
• Building translational labs to generate the prototypes of our energy technology
Are there any success stories you would like to share with our readers?
The clean energy challenges we are facing are so big. They require academy, industry, investors and government to work closely together. In the past, there were a few successful stories, for example Tesla in the energy storage/transportation space. Amprius, a startup company I founded seems to be on the right track.
At Stanford, there are a few dozen clean energy related companies founded by students. They need continuous support.
We need multiple sector partnership to grow the clean energy ecosystem.
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