What can the battery of the future offer?
The technology for energy storage systems is changing rapidly. Electric cars need high-performance batteries, and power from renewable energy sources such as solar or wind is dependent on stationary energy storage. The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft is researching intensively into new concepts. What is the current status of the technology? Where do the greatest challenges lie?
Batteries have been our unseen companions for decades. They are hidden in portable radios, flashlights and smartphones. Only when we have to charge our smartphone every evening, it becomes obvious that there is room for technological improvement. Apart from that, up to now there has never been any particular reason to give batteries much thought.
All that has changed. Two important industries, the energy and automobile industries, are currently involved in intensive research in this area. As the energy revolution gathers pace, batteries will be needed, for example, for energy storage in order to equalize the fluctuating power production of photovoltaic solar systems or wind turbines. The trend for electromobility adds extra currency to the subject.
Globally, research labs, universities and manufacturers are working to drive battery technology forward. Strictly speaking, in this context it is incorrect to use the term battery. The correct term is accumulators, or rechargeable batteries. Even so, in common parlance most people just talk about batteries.
The Work of the Fraunhofer Institutes
Fraunhofer researchers have been working in this field for years. Their efforts are important because there are many unanswered questions. They are concerned with aspects such as energy density, range, charging time, weight and size, as well as suitability for everyday use. Electric cars, for example, are dependent on having a good range. That can only be achieved through higher energy density and improved efficiency, ideally with the battery being as small and lightweight as possible. Environmental issues also have to be considered. Rechargeable batteries are environmentally friendly when they are operational, but this is not necessarily true for their manufacture. And what about recycling spent rechargeable batteries?
The ongoing development of battery concepts also calls for expertise in matters of safety. Safety experts must ensure that the highly compacted, high-tech rechargeable batteries of the future are safe in all situations. As strange as it may seem, batteries are still in their infancy, at least when it comes to high-performance rechargeable batteries.