USC-CiQUS researcher María Giménez-López in collaboration with CIDETEC have received a Proof of Concept grant from the European Research Council (ERC). The project will improve the development of new rechargeable zinc-air batteries. It is the fourth ERC-Proof of Concept obtained in CiQUS and the sole grants in this category to date in Galicia.
ZABCAT project will address problems arising in these batteries to prevent the cathode degradation and extend its useful life. New electrode materials will be manufactured and then tested by CIDETEC in pre-industrial battery prototypes.
The lithium-ion battery is one of the most popular choices for energy storage today. It is widely used to power portable electronic devices and many other applications. However, it is a technology that faces sustainability and safety problems, including some technical barriers. In this respect, zinc-air rechargeable batteries represent a promising alternative to solve many of these issues. These systems provide high energy density, being able to store more energy than current lithium-ion batteries. On the other hand, their low environmental impact is due to the fact that contain zinc, an abundant element. Zinc-air batteries therefore employ highly available, low-cost and safe materials.
However, zinc-air technology must overcome significant obstacles in order to store energy efficiently. The degradation that occurs at the cathode and corrosion of the anode, ultimately limit both the reversibility and a long battery life. "The lack of approaches solving the cathode limitations severely hampers practical applications and commercialization of secondary zinc-air batteries nowadays" said María Gimenez-Lopez, PI researcher at Centro Singular de Investigación en Química Biolóxica e Materiais Moleculares (CiQUS) who has recently obtained an ´ERC-Proof of Concept´ (PoC) to face this challenge, the only one achieved in Spain in the final round of the call. New project ZABCAT will focus on protecting electrocatalytic centers to address problems in the electrodes, increasing the useful life of this batteries and improving its behaviour in real conditions.
Within the ERC-StG-NANOCOMP project, Gimenez-Lopez and her group have previously developed strategies for confinement of electrocatalyst materials. Because of nanoscale confinement, durability of the electrocatalysts will be radically improved offering a unique opportunity to the development of cost-effective electrochemical technologies. In this way, ZABCAT aims to translate the outstanding scientific results obtained in the ERC-StG project to solve the above problems that are generated in the cathode of a zinc-air electrically rechargeable battery that could enter in the market in the short term. Gimenez-Lopez said that "the new prototype could triplicate the actual cell cycle duration of the available systems within the stationary sector, leading also to double the actual specific energy generation and a reduction of battery costs (cell) of 30%". In the second stage of the project, thanks to CIDETEC, the electrode materials designed at CiQUS will be scaled up to a pre-industrial level. The Basque technological centre, an international reference in energy storage, will manufacture and integrate the electrode materials into a secondary zinc-air cell to fully assess the performance of the obtained preindustrial prototypes.
This brings to four the number of PoC grants received at CiQUS after those obtained by Francisco Rivadulla, Javier Montenegro and José Luis Mascareñas, being the sole grants in this category awarded in Galicia to date. This action supports ERC beneficiaries to explore the commercial or societal potential of their work. To achieve this, ZABCAT will be funded with 150,000 euros and will last 18 months.
* image: María Giménez, ZABCAT project leader (CiQUS)