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Energy Storage and Harvesting

Group Leader: J.R. Morante

Research  Lines:

  • Nanoelectrochemistry. Energy transduction processes.
  • Electrodes and electrolytes.
  • Solid electrolyzing system. 
  • Chemical, Electrochemical and Thermal storage. Batteries and thin-film batteries. Ultracapacitors.
  • Laboratory of Battery and Storage System  Testing: LAB-SEE
  • Harvesting (fully autonomous energy systems)



Energy transduction processes and Nano-electrochemistry

Fundamental studies concerning the mechanisms of interaction of photons, phonons and chemicals at the nanoscale are carried out for achieving deeper knowledge and understanding of the essential energy transduction processes. Special emphasis is devoted to the use of 0D, 1 D and 2 D nanomaterials in order to apply their powerful advantages in the design of new devices with enhanced efficiencies in the energy conversion. 

Many of these features have also interest for developing transduction devices involving chemical and electrical signals, like sensors or new devices.

Electrodes and electrolytes.

New concepts and ideas are developed on the base of the design and fabrication of three-dimensional multifunctional nanomaterials which can be applied in new architectures as appropriate nanoscale building blocks, including the strategic use of void space, deliberate disorder and 3D structure as design components. Coupling of the electrodes with the active energy conversion and storage materials is one of the present energy device limitations.

For it,  we are investigating the conversion of light energy, heat energy, and the energy stored in chemical bonds to electrical potentials  with emphasis on the i) the electronic, ii) ionic, and iii) electrochemical properties and electron transfer characteristics of nanostructured iv) electrodes and v) catalysts. 

The activities are addressed, on the base of the above five aspects, to study, develop and apply new improved nanoarchitectures for electrodes in photon and electrochemical based energy conversion or storage devices. For each case, electrical characteristics of the interface between electrodes and actives device parts will be improved using the 3D nanoarchitectures that join high surface area and catalyzed surfaces for heterogeneous reactions with a continuous, porous network for rapid molecular flux and specimens interchange. On the base of these approaches, the target advantages include: better electrode/active material accommodation, to make possible new reactions and their control, higher contact areas with lower parasitic impedance, shorter carrier path lengths and, due to the small size and used geometries, a profound effect of spatial confinement and contribution of surfaces. These expected new nano electrode features will become one of the key clue to achieve higher efficient conversion and storage devices allowing faster response times and higher current and /or energy densities.

These activities become essential for the development of solar cells, batteries and other energy storage devices.

Solid electrolyzing system 

In collaboration with the nanoionic and fuel cell groups there are implemented activities for use reverse fuel cell as solid electrolyzer cells available for converting green electricity in chemical species useful for energy storage. Hydrogen from water and methanol or methane from CO2 have been targeted as initial objectives even these processes are also reliable for getting syngas as base specimen for synthesis a longer hydrocarbon chains giving liquid fuels.

Chemical, Electrochemical and Thermal storage. Batteries, thin-film batteries, ultracapacitors and Laboratory of Battery and Storage System Testing (LAB-SEE)

The improvements achieved on the system electrodes /electrolytes and new materials are addresses to develop elemental cells and their stacking systems for developing chemical or electrochemical storage systems . It is envisaged different technologies with special emphasis, taking into account their potential applications, on ion lithium batteries, thin films batteries metal-air systems, redox flow batteries and new planar NaS technology. It covers a large range of power and energy capacities required for the energy storage systems needed for electrical car, smart grid, intelligent building or  power plants from a few of kWh to tens of MWh. 

Under development there is a testing laboratory that allows a complete characterization of the batteries performances together with an overall view of their material properties. Likewise, this laboratory will include the thermal storage systems.

Harvesting (fully autonomous energy systems)

The capability to catch energy from different sources like light, noise, heat, vibrations, etc…. by using adequate transduction devices ( photovoltaic, thermoelectricity, piezoelectricity, …), is combined with the use of storage devices like a planar batteries or a capacitor, for developing by means of an low consumption  processing and communication electronics circuits, a fully autonomous system. It is addressed to develop a sensor networks able for controlling and processing intelligent buildings, chemical plants, energy distribution networks etc…