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Energy Transitions Research at the University of Cambridge

Friday, 5 February, 2021 - 12:30 to 13:30
Event location: 

An Energy Transitions discussion series is planned this term, together with Cambridge Zero and the Energy Materials at Cambridge (EMAC) community. This is a new format and the aim is to stimulate informal cross disciplinary discussion amongst the wider academic community at the University of Cambridge.

The objectives are to create a platform to give researchers an opportunity to raise their profile and establish new networks; create cohesive special interest groups within the university and to address short notice funding calls. 

A different theme will be launched each month, where three speakers will each give a short 10-minute talk focussing on potential new and interesting research areas with the potential to make a significant step change to reach a zero carbon energy transformation, followed by questions and discussion after each talk. The discussion will continue on a MS Teams themed channel where your participation is encouraged.

If you would like to register to attend this active discussion session please email and we will send you the link to join. We will automatically add you to a MS Teams channel, where the speakers will continue the discussion after the event. If you do not wish to be added please let us know. We particularly welcome participation from underrepresented groups. 

Further discussion sessions on the themes of photovoltaics and new fuels are planned for March and April respectively and more details will be circulated in due course.

The session will be chaired by Prof Richard Friend and the speakers will be:

·         Dr Svetlana Menkin, Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry

Interface dynamics and lithium plating in anode-free lithium batteries. ‘Anode-free’ batteries present a significant advantage due to their substantially higher energy density and ease of assembly in a dry air atmosphere. However, potential safety issues due to lithium (Li) dendrite growth rather than smooth Li metal plating on the Cu current collector, and low cycling coulombic efficiency during their operation are delaying their practical implementation. To understand the interplay between Cu surface chemistry and the morphology of the plated Li, we studied the SEI formation on Cu and the preferential plating of Li using ssNMR, insitu NMR, XPS, ToF-SIMS, SEM and EIS.

·         Dr Alex Forse, Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry

Carbon dioxide capture is an essential greenhouse gas mitigation technology to limit global warming, but the high cost of existing technology is limiting its deployment. Here I will introduce my UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship, where we will combine electrochemical energy storage with carbon dioxide capture to achieve an energy efficient capture process. In this all-electric approach, the charging of a battery or a supercapacitor device brings about the carbon capture process. When the cell is discharged, pure carbon dioxide is collected for geologic sequestration, and a large fraction of the energy used for charging is recovered. Possible benefits of this technology include a lower operating cost for carbon capture, as well as easy integration with an increasingly renewable electricity grid. I will discuss the key challenges that this technology faces and how we will address these in our 7 year FLF project.

·         Prof Michael de Volder, Department of Engineering

Photo-Batteries: Combining solar cells and batteries into one device. Combinations of solar cells and batteries are used in a variety of applications, ranging from small autonomous sensing devices, to medium sized roof-top solar panels and large scale solar farms. Both the energy harvesting device (solar cells) and energy storage device (battery) play a key role in this application, but it is unclear if these two functionalities need to be carried out by separate device. In this talk I will introduce “Photo-Batteries” that can both harvest and store solar energy at the same time and discuss both Li-Ion and Zn-Ion battery systems that can be recharged by light, without the need for any external solar cell or power supply. Finally, I will discuss some opportunities and challenges associated with this technology as well as opportunities for collaboration.