Professor Dr. S. Ulrich Schubert on the advantages and applications of polymer-based batteries and on trends in current battery research. Schubert is director at the Center for Energy and Environmental Chemistry (CEEC) Jena. The CEEC Jena is an interfaculty center of the Friedrich Schiller University Jena.
Polymer-based batteries, i.e. batteries that use polymers as active materials for storing electrical energy, have been under intensive investigation in my research group since 2011. For the first time, we were now able to present a thin-film battery generated by inkjet printing. We were also able to file patents and publish papers concerning a number of new active materials. Evonik Industries AG is currently about to commercialize these new polymers as printable inks (under the brand name of “TAeTTOOz”).
Polymers as active materials require a much smaller CO2 footprint during production. Furthermore, they are generally less toxic and flammable. Moreover, these batteries can be pro-cessed using printing techniques (screen-printing, inkjet printing, roll-to-roll printing).
This applies above all to the area of printable thin-film batteries. From active RFIT tags through “patches” for transmitting health functions to intelligent clothing.
This field of research is currently experiencing a tremendous boom. In Germany, in April the German Research Foundation (DFG) established a priority program (€ 12.6 million, duration 6 years), and the EU a training network (ITN, € 4 million, duration 4 years) – I have the honor of coordinating both programs. The interest and investment of Evonik Industries AG likewise indicates the economic potential clearly. Moreover, there continues to be extremely strong interest and activities in China and Japan.
Every research and development result is only as good as its process-accompanying analytics. Therefore, modern analytical methods for determination of electrolytes and identification of trace substances, raw materials, and material components are indispensable in today’s battery research.