Sustainable Responsive Hybrid Ionic Liquid-Polymer Gel Electrolyte Materials

Lead Research Organisation: Aston University
Department Name: College of Engineering and Physical Sci


Global energy consumption is rising daily at an astronomical rate. In 2021, we used 176,431 TWh worldwide, which was more than double the amount consumed in 1982 and over six times that used in 1950. Whilst the use of renewable energy has been increasing in recent years, it still only accounts for ca. 16% of our energy consumption, and it is projected that renewables will account for only ca. 20% of global consumption in 2040. Currently, the biggest barrier to the uptake of renewable energy, particularly wind and solar electricity, is the inherent intermittency of the power production and the lack of scalable methods of storing electrical energy. Despite this, there is still a mismatch between the R&D efforts on energy capture and energy storage. Existing energy storage devices are assembled via multiple laborious processing steps and typically employ flammable solvents and fossil fuel-derived materials with poor thermal and chemical stability. Hence, there is a need to identify new solutions for sustainable energy storage. Together with this, materials generated from renewable feedstocks are desperately required to displace fossil fuel-derived products currently used around the world. Strikingly, only ca. 1% of all current polymer and plastic materials are made from renewable resources.

The aim of this project is to develop safe, reliable, sustainable and commercially relevant next generation responsive gel electrolyte materials which will facilitate better green energy storage solutions. We will create bespoke functional, renewable polymers that possess unique material properties which make them excellent choices for a plethora of practical applications compared to existing materials currently used. When these unique polymers are combined with ionic liquids, they can form hybrid ionic liquid-polymer gel electrolytes called ionogels - these ionogels are not only more environmentally friendly gel electrolytes but they have enhanced, responsive mechanical properties with a broader scope of applications in fuel and solar cells, transistors, actuators and battery electrolytes. This transformative research programme will deliver new sustainable, responsive ionogel materials with minimal polymer loading (less than 3% w/w), achieved using novel block copolymer solution self-assembly strategies and importantly via greener one-pot processes for in situ ionogel formation, significantly enhancing the industrial viability of these ionogel preparation routes.

The ionogels developed in this project will address the significant shortcomings in the underutilisation of renewable energy in the coming years and will thus contribute to the UK's drive to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Given the desperate need for sustainable energy storage solutions, as recognised by the UN with Sustainable Development Goal 7 on affordable and clean energy, the proposed research is timely and impactful.


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