Jena, Germany (14.07.2022) The energy turnaround can only succeed if the electricity, which is produced in an ecological way, is also available at any time of the day or night. For this purpose, suitable storage systems must be developed, which can store the energy in different sizes and can be discharged on demand. The Center for Energy and Environmental Chemistry (CEEC Jena) at the University of Jena, Germany has been working successfully on this "battery of the future" for years. Now the research can be advanced with European help: The new research project "FutureBAT" by Prof. Ulrich S. Schubert is funded by the European Research Council (ERC) with a so-called "Advanced Grant". In the next five years, the chemist and materials scientist will receive around 2.5 million Euros. With this funding, eight positions for researchers and two positions for technical staff can be created.
Additional motivation for future-oriented research
"The funding by an ERC Advanced Grant proves once again that we are on the right track with our research to create resource-saving and sustainable energy storage for the world of tomorrow," says Schubert. The fact that his project is now one of the selected projects being supported by the ERC, which is the most valuable award from the EU for top researchers, motivates him even more. "We will do everything to ensure that tomorrow comes soon, because our laboratory results prove that our concept works," says Schubert.
The President of the University of Jena, Prof. Dr Walter Rosenthal, congratulated Ulrich S. Schubert on the approval of his research proposal: "We are very pleased about the ERC funding. The award confirms the excellent reputation that our battery research and the Team Schubert enjoy internationally."
Thuringia's Minister of Science, Wolfgang Tiefensee, described the award of the ERC Research Grant as "a scientific accolade for Professor Schubert and his entire team". "The decision is proof of the scientific excellence and high reputation that Jena has now achieved in the field of battery research," said Tiefensee. Thuringia sees itself once again confirmed in its strategic decision to set up and financially support the CEEC Jena. The ERC funding now creates additional scientific freedom to expand research and thus to further consolidate the internationally leading position of the CEEC Jena. Tiefensee emphasized: "The ongoing initiative to establish a new Helmholtz Institute for Polymers in Energy Application in Jena is receiving additional impetus from the support of the European Research Council."
Polymer-based redox flow batteries: Development of novel organic active materials
In his research, Prof. Schubert is studying the so-called redox flow batteries (RFB). "They are the only type of battery in which power and capacity can intrinsically be varied independently of each another, which makes this type of battery perfect for scalable stationary applications," explains the Jena chemist. The Jena innovation is that the new batteries work on the basis of aqueous electrolytes with organic macromolecules (plastics). These battery systems "enable the use of inexpensive dialysis membranes together with pH-neutral saline solutions as electrolytes". The systems work, as the first laboratory samples have proven. However, they still have significant limitations in terms of capacity, service life and temperature stability.
In the new FutureBAT project, such restrictions should be reduced and ideally eliminated. In concrete terms, the Jena team wants to improve the energy density, temperature window, efficiency and service life of the battery and at the same time be able to offer it in a more sustainable and cheaper way. This is to be made possible by the development of novel organic active materials. Schubert and his team want to look for new molecules and combine them with the improvement of current polymer materials at the molecular level. As a result, new properties become possible, e.g., new photo-rechargeable batteries or RFB which contain all charged species in a single tank, Schubert looks ahead.
"We expect groundbreaking breakthroughs in the field of polymer-based redox flow batteries," says Prof. Schubert. "The funding from the ERC Advanced Grant will now help us to be one of the leading international research teams in this new research field also in the future."
ERC Advanced Grants
The ERC Advanced Grant represents the most prestigious European research funding for individuals and at the same time the most important European award for outstanding scientists. The ERC Advanced Grant is awarded to established, active researchers with an outstanding scientific track record. When assessing their performance, the ten years prior to the application are decisive.
Ulrich S. Schubert has been a professor of organic and macromolecular chemistry at the Friedrich Schiller University Jena for 15 years. He is founding director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Chemistry Jena (CEEC Jena) and initiator as well as applicant for the new research buildings of the CEEC Jena (total investment including equipment of 70 million euros). Prof. Schubert is the author of 1,200 peer-reviewed publications and is one of the most cited scientists worldwide. He was awarded a Federal Cross of Merit by Federal President Steinmeier and was named University Teacher of the Year by the German University Association and the weekly newspaper "Die Zeit".