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MIT Materials Day
On October 18th the MIT Materials Processing Center led a day-long symposia on “Materials for Electrochemical Energy Storage” followed by a student poster presentation as part of their annual Materials Day symposia series. Materials Day features presentations by the leading industry and academic experts on emerging and important research in materials science and engineering. This year’s theme focused on emerging technologies for energy storage for a sustainable energy future.
The Materials Processing Center (MPC) is the interface between industry and MIT’s materials science community. Its overall goal is to encourage interdisciplinary and cross-community collaboration for key issues in materials processing and manufacturing. The director of the MPC, Dr. Carl V. Thompson introduced this year’s theme, explaining that electrochemical energy storage faces unique materials and processing challenges in order to reduce cost, improve performance, and improve safety. Later talks emphasized that this is not only a materials science issue, but a society issue.
During her presentation on “Evaluating Storage Technologies for Solar and Wind Energy”, Professor Jessika Trancik said, “Energy Storage technology is the most significant challenge we face as an engineering community.” She explained that with the 2015 Paris Agreement, where 195 countries adopted the first global climate plan, there is a global commitment and interest in reducing emissions. Renewable energy sources like solar and wind is predicted in most cases to achieve cost parity with natural gas and coal by 2030.
This makes the next 15 years critical in developing reliable energy storage in order to ensure that the supply can equal the demand. Emerging energy storage technologies have the potential to address this challenge that has global political, environmental, and monetary significance.
The talks approached this challenge with a diverse array of perspectives such as developing computer models to provide interface stability insights to mastering the science of catalyst design to activate oxygen chemistry for sustainable energy. There were technical presentations such as, Dr. Kevin Eberman, a Product Manager at 3M who explained the considerations that goes into developing batteries for high energy density storage and the most promising alternative materials to lithium. There were also talks that approached the problem from a broader point of view. Dr. Glen Merfeld from GE went into detail on how to calculate energy storage value analytics, mapping storage physics to application economics.
Many positioned their solutions in the context of popular lithium-ion batteries, which Professor Yet-Ming Chiang described as “the silicon of the battery world”. He explained that one of the major challenges will be to reversing the trend in cost for chemistries to develop an ultralow cost electrochemical storage. He went into detail about his research in developing an air-breathing, aqueous sulfur flow battery which at the lab scale presents one of the cheapest alternatives available.
During the question and answer sessions doubts were raised about whether emerging energy storage solutions could ever compete with the current technologies. This is a concern that speaks to any materials scientist who is focused on developing materials to enable technological applications. Dr. Merfeld put it best when he said during his presentation, “I’m a materials guy, I want clarity of purpose and I want to make sure that I’m working on the right things. There’s almost no problem that we can’t solve, [the question] is which ones do we solve?” The presenters, though they were focused on the challenges for these emerging technologies, were also positive about the future for electrochemical energy storage research. Professor Yang Shao-Horn said “It’s important in a research environment to stay visionary and optimistic.”
Related Elsevier Titles:
The highly interdisciplinary field of materials science examines elements of applied physics and chemistry, as well as chemical, mechanical, civil, and electrical engineering. Nanoscience and nanotechnology in particular have yielded major innovations in this area, such as graphene and carbon nanotubes. Elsevier’s authoritative content in this area ranges from undergraduate textbooks to multi-volume reference works investigating the relationships between the structure of materials and their properties. Our journals (including Materials Today), books, and eBooks help researchers stay abreast of developments in this swiftly advancing field, coving major sub-disciplines like energy and power; metals and alloys; ceramics; composite materials; polymer science and biomaterials; interdisciplinary materials science; and structural materials.