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Searching for alternative and sustainable solutions for renewable energy storage

Mitigation of climate change requires increasing the use of renewable energy and the development of storage.
Doctoral student Fatemeh Davodi is applying drops of ink containing catalyst on an electrode, which will be attached to a measuring instrument. Photo: Glen Forde/Aalto Energy Platform

The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95 per cent from the 1990 levels by 2050 has been posted in the EU's energy and climate goals. Making use of renewable energy is critical in terms of climate objectives. The problem with solar and wind power, however, is dependency on the weather. Storage of renewable electricity by producing fuel, hydrogen or hydrocarbons, is one solution to this problem.

Electrical energy from the sun can be turned to hydrogen with a catalyst. Materials used in the catalysts, such as platinum, are critical, difficult to acquire and very expensive.

"We aim to develop materials which would be easier and cheaper, and would improve the operation, safety and environmental friendliness of the electrocatalyst. We have managed to replace platinum used in the manufacturing of catalysts with iron and carbon," says professor at Aalto University Tanja Kallio. "The manufacturing of carbon-iron-catalysts is, however, difficult and so far we have succeeded to produce only a small batch. We currently develop scaling."

Research together with companies

Aalto University develops new catalysts in cooperation with the industry. In the EU's CREATE project – which is searching for alternatives to critical materials – Aalto University's partner is British ITM Power, whose products include reactors needed for electrochemical manufacturing of hydrogen. As a result of the cooperation, an ultra-low-Pt-catalyst has been obtained and is in testing stage. If it works, it will considerably reduce the amount of platinum in the reactors. 

Batteries are used for short-term and small-scale storage. According to predictions, the need for cobalt used in manufacturing lithium batteries will rise to twice or three times the current level in 5-10 years’ time. Together with Freeport Cobalt, which produces materials for batteries, Aalto researchers have tried to find solutions to replace materials and improve sustainability.

Cooperation with businesses has been closely involved in research relating to energy storage. Together with companies, the future of energy storage will also be envisioned at a breakfast event organised on 19 April, which focuses on alternative energy storage methods, such as fuels and heat (power-to-X). In addition, it is important to consider more effective solutions to the conversion of fuels back to electricity. The event provides a broad overview of leading research in the industry. It is the second part of the Energy Storage Future series of events, the last part of which will be organised on 31 May on the topic of reducing energy storage needs. The events will be held in English.

Beyond electrical energy storage - Aalto breakfast

Further information:

Professor Tanja Kallio
[email protected]

Kati Miettunen
Project Manager, Aalto Energy Platform
[email protected]

Anne Kosola
Manager, Corporate Relations
+358 50 596 9395
[email protected]

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