Tilmann Leisegang gave a plenary lecture at the SAW

As a member of the Young Forum, Tilmann Leisegang gave a plenary lecture "On the storage of electrical energy" in the plenary meeting of the Saxon Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Leipzig on 10 January 2020.

Tilmann Leisegang while assembling a battery.

In view of the worrying global climatic developments, ever more concrete measures are being discussed and introduced, such as the global energy transition, which are having an increasing impact on our lives. However, as Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley wrote in her novel "Frankenstein" published in 1818: "Nothing is as painful for the human mind as a great and sudden change". Now more than ever, the sciences are called upon to accept the global challenges of sustainable development and to develop systemic solution strategies in a responsible manner – the novel may serve as a reminder here.

Optimism in the face of the challenges of the global transition of energy systems can be found here in the insight of Hermann von Helmholtz: "Energy is not lost, but can only be transformed from one form into another". In 1847 he summarised these in his law of conservation of energy. Accordingly, electrochemical energy storage devices, the so-called batteries, represent an important contribution to the expansion of renewable energies and the growing number of electric vehicles and mobile devices.

At present, lead-acid and lithium-ion batteries dominate the market, although the latter are rapidly gaining in importance. This leads to considerable future supply risks for the necessary raw materials – including graphite, cobalt, phosphorus, and lithium – as the required quantities exceed the quantities currently available on the market by up to a factor of 10. Therefore, the search for new material systems appears to be expedient in order to further diversify battery technologies and thus minimize the raw material supply risks as well as the social and ecological effects of their procurement. Accordingly, the novel material systems must combine easily available or efficiently producible raw materials and at the same time enable the highest energy densities of the batteries and guarantee a high degree of safety during their operation. Materials research must attempt to transfer these requirements to new materials and material concepts. Here, so-called post-lithium or beyond-lithium technologies, such as the aluminium-ion battery, appear promising.

In his lecture "On the storage of electrical energy", Tilmann Leisegang presented a selection of historical events that led to the establishment of electrochemistry and electrochemical energy storage and finally culminated in the invention of the best commercialized battery to date, the lithium-ion battery, for which the Nobel Prize for Chemistry was awarded in 2019. The requirements and boundary conditions for novel electrochemical energy storage systems were then discussed, and the aluminium-ion battery was proposed as a possible post-lithium technology. Finally, he reported on own work on the identification of corresponding materials, which uses "big data" and "machine learning" approaches in addition to crystal chemical methods.

More information: SAW-Leipzig 

Tilmann Leisegang • tilmann.leisegang@physik.tu-freiberg.de • +49 3731 39 3341