Energy efficient car.

Energy efficient car.

Charging ahead: CSIRO battery and energy storage research capabilities

CSIRO is developing clean, affordable energy and transport technologies. We are working to halve greenhouse gas emissions through the efficient use and generation of energy.

  • 8 November 2010 | Updated 14 October 2011

Our expertise

CSIRO has considerable expertise for modelling, synthesis, fabrication and testing of battery technology. Our expertise includes:

  • fabrication, prototypes, anodes, thin electrolytes, packaging, costing, modular design
  • structural testing: ceramic, polymer, metals
  • QA, manufacturing of electrodes: optimisation of structure and electrode performance
  • high throughput electrochemistry and materials development for new chemistries or polymers
  • characterisation of materials or components (for example, electrode structures using PALS, scanning electron microscopy (SEM))
  • examination and management of conductivity and capacitor effect 
  • product development, formulation and manufacturing route
  • electrolyte chemistry, cell performance and pack performance
  • application of  knowledge of actual duty cycles
  • knowledge of leading edge battery technology from highest performance demand markets such as Global Green Challenge, aerospace industry
  • modelling: thermodynamics, computational fluid dynamics (CFD), thermal performance, dimensional stability, durability, state of charge, operating windows at cell and pack level
  • optimising operating window, energy and power densities
  • charge management electronics and software.

What we do

CSIRO has pursued a broadly based research and development (R&D) program on battery technology and energy storage for more than 20 years, resulting in leading-edge storage technologies.

UltraBattery – the best of both worlds

CSIRO's UltraBattery combines a supercapacitor with a lead–acid battery in one unit cell.

This unique design harnesses the best of both technologies to produce a battery that provides high power discharge and charge with a long, low-cost life.

The UltraBattery offers a number of advantages over the existing nickel-metal hydride batteries used in hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs):

  • approximately 70 per cent less expensive
  • lasts four times longer
  • comparable performance in fuel consumption, carbon-dioxide emissions and cycle life
  • faster charge and discharge rates.

The technology enhances the ability of the battery to accept and deliver high levels of power with low levels of electrical resistance similar to a supercapacitor.

CSIRO is interested in forming creative and commercially productive partnerships with companies seeking to explore superior energy storage solutions for all modes of transport and stationary applications.

Traditionally, supercapacitors and lead–acid batteries were separate components relying on electronic controllers and complex algorithms to switch power between the units. CSIRO technology eliminates the need for this additional electronic control and multiple energy storage devices.

The UltraBattery has immediate application in:

  • Hybrid electric vehicles: Integrating a conventional car engine with a battery-powered electric motor means HEV technology achieves the dual environmental benefit of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel consumption from transport.
  • Storage for renewable energy: As wind turbines generate energy intermittently, it is preferable to store the generated energy in a battery pack to ensure continuity of supply in low winds and to enable wind farm investors to maximise saleable energy.
  • Grid ancillary services: UltraBatteries can store and discharge energy quickly to provide extra power when needed, for example providing peak power support to pulsed loads and short-term power support during interruptions to a primary source.

Supercapacitor research and development

Supercapacitors are ideally suited to applications requiring short bursts of high power and high reliability, but their low specific energy (relative to batteries) blocks wider implementation.

Our research group has its sights on high energy supercapacitors (that can also operate at high temperatures), which will facilitate application in vehicles and in consumer electronics.

Improved carbon and/or carbon composite electrodes

We are preparing improved activated carbons from polymeric precursors with low inorganic content and more tunable porosities. Our aim is to increase the surface area and optimise the porosity/pore size and electrolyte assessibility. 

Nanocomposites

 We are investigating nanocomposites of carbon and electrically conducting polymers (ECPs). These materials combine the electric double layer capacitance of porous carbons with the high energy capacity of ECPs.

Asymmetric supercapacitor designs

An asymmetric supercapacitor typically consists of a ‘battery like’ electrode and an electrochemical capacitor-type electrode (high surface area carbon).This configuration has the potential for both high power and high energy in a single long-life device.

Our current focus is a dual-carbon symmetric device with a porous carbon electrode suitably matched to a graphite (Li intercalating) electrode in a Li-based electrolyte. Our objective is an intercalating graphite electrode with a fast charge capability. Such a material will also be attractive for the Li ion battery industry.

Advanced electrolytes

Room temperature ionic liquid (RTIL) electrolytes allow higher operating voltages in supercapacitors. RTILs have been successfully tested in symmetric carbon-based supercapacitors.

RTILs with superior performance to commercial electrolytes (at temperatures >40° C) have been identified. Ongoing work centres on RTILs (or mixtures) with improved low temperature performance, and their interactions with the carbon surface.

Applications and spin-offs

CSIRO’s research has created a number of commercial opportunities that have led to commercial license agreements and the formation of a number of spin-off companies:

  • Furukawa Battery: CSIRO has being working with Furukawa Battery since 2005 on the development and commercialisation of the UltraBattery. Furukawa Battery will manufacture, market and sell the battery in Japan and Thailand.
  • East Penn: CSIRO's UltraBattery technology will soon reach North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) markets through US battery manufacturer East Penn Manufacturing Co. Inc., under an exclusive technology transfer agreement with Furukawa Battery. The US Government, as announced by President Barack Obama in 2009 under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act,  awarded $US32.5 million to East Penn to produce the UltraBattery as part of  a $US2.4 billion funding programme for 48 advanced battery and electric drive projects.
  • Cap-XX Pty Ltd: CSIRO supercapacitor technology is being commercialised by the spin-off company Cap-XX Pty Ltd, which develops high power, high energy supercapacitors in thin, flat, prismatic packages.
  • Ceramic Fuel Cells Limited (CFCL): CFCL was formed by CSIRO and a consortium of leading energy and industrial companies. CFCL is a world leader in developing solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) technology to provide reliable, energy-efficient, high quality, and low-emission electricity from widely available natural gas and renewable fuels. CFCL is developing SOFC products for small-scale on-site micro combined heat and power (m-CHP) and distributed generation units that co-generate electricity and heat for domestic use.

Commercial partnerships with CSIRO

Our widely recognised R&D on batteries and supercapacitors demonstrates how our research teams apply science in a practical way to provide industry solutions.

CSIRO is interested in forming creative and commercially productive partnerships with companies seeking to explore superior energy storage solutions for all modes of transport and stationary applications.

Our work on energy and battery storage is part of the Future Manufacturing Flagship’s theme on Advanced Engineered Components, led by Mr Barrie Finnin. We combine our expertise with that of the Energy Transformed Flagship.

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