Science Technology Engineering Mathematics and Environmental Education Research Group

Re-imagining futures in STEME

Energy Research and the Circular Economy Symposium

The Institute for Frontier Materials (IFM) at Deakin University hosts the StorEnergy Training Centre. Researchers in the centre focus on a range of issues and development opportunities exploring the circular economy and battery storage. This open/public symposium will showcase 6 groups of researchers working on issues related to the circular economy and battery energy storage.

The event is supported by Researchers from the STEME Research Group – School of Education, Deakin University – who will work with these researchers, a group of Deakin University Science students and Secondary Science Teachers to develop online resources related to this research.

Please register if you are interested in attending 

We invite you to attend the Energy Research and the Circular Economy Symposium

In the symposium you will hear from 6 groups of researchers:

  • Synthesis of better performing battery electrolytesColin Kang, Mahdi Ghorbani, Anna Warrington
    Polymer electrolytes/solid-state batteriesDr Xiaoen Wang, Yady Senayda Garcia Castillo, Greg Rollo-Walker, Dr Yan Liang
    Energy Ethics Research and the Circular EconomyDr Natalie Ralph
    Beyond Li-ion batteries; Cheaper and safe sodium batteries using plastic crystal electrolytesJenny Sun, Faezeh Makhlooghiazad
    Ultra-Batteries: from Research to ApplicationMojtaba (Mo) Eftekharnia, Dr Rob Kerr
    Circular Economy and E-WasteDr. Cristina Pozo-Gonzalo

For more information about the researchers and their presentations please see below


1: Synthesis of Better Performing Battery Electrolytes by Colin Kang, Mahdi Ghorbani and Anna Warrington

Abstract: Chances are, you’re less than a metre away from a highly flammable and explosive electrolyte right now. You will find an electrolyte right inside the battery of our phone, which is key to powering our phones by conducting electricity between the positive and negative side of the battery. Batteries are also a crucial aspect of using and storing renewable energy, and a great pathway to reduce our contribution of greenhouse gases to global warming. The use of these batteries in electric vehicles are a wonderful alternative to reduce our use of petroleum since current everyday cars contribute to the release 530 million tonnes of CO2 emissions each year in Australia alone (Net CO2-e Emissions (Gg) for AUSTRALIA from National Greenhouse Gas Inventory Total, Australian Greenhouse Emissions Information System, 2017). However, current electrolytes found in batteries today can be very dangerous and may catch fire or even blow up an entire car. To move away from these types of electrolytes, we will discuss our goal of developing new electrolytes that are safer, non-flammable and better yet, batteries that can last even longer than a day! We design and seek new ionic electrolytes with these ideal properties and learn about different characteristics that we can tailor (e.g. when does it melt and how fluid it is), and utilise them in various battery applications from mobile phones to electric vehicles, or grid energy storage to power entire cities.

Colin Kang began his research career at Curtin University with Assoc. Prof. Debbie Silvester in electrochemistry. He was then awarded a PhD scholarship at Monash University with Prof. Doug MacFarlane where he studied fluorinated ionic liquid electrolytes for the electrosynthesis of ammonia. Still in the area of renewable energy, Colin is currently working in the field of electrolyte synthesis for battery applications with Prof. Jenny Pringle. In addition to the research, Colin’s interests lie in exploring the wildlife with outdoor activities such as camping and hiking.

Mahdi Ghorbani is a PhD student at Deakin University. He has experience in developing new ionic liquids and is currently exploring new microbiologically influenced corrosion inhibitors to study their mechanisms on steel surfaces in Professor Maria Forsyth’s research group.

Anna Warrington is originally from England and completed a BSc and MSc degree in chemistry at Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland, then she undertook an industrial placement year as a safety assessment scientist at British American Tobacco. In her masters year she developed electrolytes for organic redox flow batteries and was fascinated by how these new energy storage technologies will be replacing our current national grids in the future. Currently in StorEnergy (a new training centre, collaborating with universities and businesses across Australia) her PhD involves developing safer, non-volatile electrolytes for various battery technologies. As part of her PhD she will undertake a placement at Boron Molecular, a specialist in chemical manufacturing for energy materials. Outside of a chemistry lab, you can find Anna with a coffee in hand, lifting weights or with her head in a book.

2: Polymer Electrolytes/Solid-state Batteries by Dr Xiaoen Wang, Yady Senayda Garcia Castillo, Greg Rollo-Walker, and Dr Yan Liang

Abstract: Lithium ion batteries are widely used in our daily life devices from mobile phones, laptop computers to electric vehicles. However, every few years, exploding phones find a way to dominate the news cycle. Safety issue is becoming a big concern to our society. The cause of these incidents was the short-circuiting of the lithium ion battery, which resulted in ignition of the highly flammable liquid electrolyte material. In theory, a lithium ion battery consist of two electrodes, which are separated by an electrolyte layer. The electrolytes used in current lithium ion batteries consist of highly flammable liquid solvents, which are the main accounts for these safety hazards. One of solutions to improve battery safety is therefore to replace the flammable components. The Solid-State Batteries Team aims at developing and designing novel solid, non-flammable materials based on organic ionic plastic crystals (OIPCs) and polymers for next generation reliable and safe battery systems.

Dr Xiaoen Wang is a research fellow at Institute for Frontier Materials (IFM), Deakin University. Dr Wang was working on proton exchange membrane full cells during his PhD in Wuhan University of Technology, China. Since he joined Deakin in 2014, he has been focusing on solid-state polymer electrolytes, nanocomposites, and their applications in energy storage and conversion devices. Currently, his work includes: (1) understanding the phase behaviour, ionic dynamics and electrochemical properties in ionic liquids-containing polymer electrolytes; (2) design of high performance polymer electrolytes for safe, high energy density lithium, sodium-metal battery applications.

Yady Senayda Garcia Castillo graduated with a bachelor in Chemical Engineering and a Masters in Materials Engineering at the Universidad Industrial de Santander in Colombia. At the time she was finishing her master, she worked as a young researcher to develop a research project, share her experience with high school students, and back to them in their research projects. After, she was working as a “leader teacher in the room class” for an NGO called Ceiba and the Universidad Tecnológica del Chocó in the middle of the Colombian jungle. Her role was offering support and motivation to Afro-descendant communities in order to learn science. Last year, she was teaching Science Materials in the Universidad de Investigación y Desarrollo. Now, she is a PhD student at Deakin University in the Institute for Frontier Materials. Current project focuses on the Solid State NMR characterisation of electromaterials for their use in batteries.

Greg Rollo-Walker is originally from the United Kingdom, growing up in London before going to the University of Bath to study an undergraduate master’s degree in Chemistry. During this degree he spent a year in industry at the Future Industries Institute in UniSA. Graduated with 1st Class Honours from the University of Bath in the summer of 2019 before moving back to Australia to carry out a PhD at Deakin University in the Institute for Frontier Materials as part of the storEnergy research training centre. Current project focuses on the synthesis of polymer electrolytes for their use in solid-state batteries. Outside of the lab Greg likes to spend his time doing outdoors activities and sports such as AFL, swimming and hiking.

Dr Yan Liang received her PhD degree from Monash University at the end of 2017. Her research background is fabricating and studying functional carbon materials as effective electrocatalysts for electrocatalysis process of oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) and carbon dioxide reduction reaction (CRR). She recently started associate research fellow position in solid lithium battery area in Institute for Frontier Materials in Deakin University. Her project is to fabricate effective cathode materials for solid lithium battery.

3: Energy Ethics Research and the Circular Economy by Dr Natalie Ralph

Abstract: This presentation will briefly overview examples of major issues addressed in renewable energy ethics research. It will then present emerging research which illuminates weaknesses in circular economy (CE) approaches to renewable energy technology including batteries, and solar and wind power. From the early stages of conceptual development of technologies, CE strategies relating to the eco-design process can aim for durability, reuse, disassembly for repair, recycling, modularity for upgrading of functionalities, and waste and emissions reduction. There are challenges however, to CE renewable energy including the tremendous amounts of energy and materials required to manufacture and maintain renewable energy systems; and difficulties in creating closed loops due to growing populations and the rebound effect (or Jevon’s Paradox) whereby recycling/material efficiency is offset by increased use. Embedded in the pro- or green-growth paradigm, with a focus primarily on technological and business solutions, CE theory and practice lacks understanding of broader social, economic, political and environmental risks and opportunities. Consequently, it is valuable to compare CE approaches with alternative theory and design approaches such as advocated in the Degrowth movement. Degrowth theory (or growth agnostic, low growth concepts) promote alternative economic/social systems and technology design frameworks such as design for ‘conviviality’. Applying two design for conviviality tools to renewable energy technology reveals gaps in CE approaches and thus, what developers of batteries and solar/wind energy technology can consider to help mitigate long-term risks and identify opportunities for supporting resilient communities and appropriate technology.

Natalie Ralph works as an Associate Research Fellow with the ARC Centre of Excellence in Electromaterials Science (ACES) and is based in the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation, Deakin University. Natalie focuses on the national and international implications of the ethics, policy, and political and social impacts associated with new renewable energy technologies and their supply chains. She also analyses the role of business in violent conflict and preventing violent extremism. Natalie formerly held roles in State Government, business and NGOs.

4: Beyond Li-ion batteries; Cheaper and Safe Sodium Batteries Using Plastic Crystal Electrolytes by Jenny Sun and Faezeh Makhlooghiazad

Abstract: Sodium batteries have attracted growing attention as the most promising substitutes to Li batteries, on account of its overwhelming benefits with inexhaustible availability, low cost and competitive energy density. They are identical with that of the commercially widespread lithium-ion battery with the only difference being that the lithium compounds are swapped with sodium compounds. In all battery technologies, the electrolyte plays a critical role for both performance and safety; whereas the frequently used organic solvent electrolytes are flammable and volatile, and even worse, thermally and electrochemically unstable. Herein, Organic ionic plastic crystals (OIPCs) are an emerging solid-state electrolyte that can overcome the abovementioned safety issues. OIPCs have plastic properties at the solid state with high ionic conductivity that makes them ideal solid state electrolytes for battery applications. This plasticity is also desired to promote a good contact between the electrodes and the OIPC. By utilizing the OIPC electrolytes in sodium batteries, we are able to cycle the batteries under high temperature. This work therefore provides an insight into safer Na batteries with facile electrolytes.

Jenny Sun obtained her PhD degree from University of New South Wales in 2019. Her PhD project was to rationally design functional materials, as well as advanced electrochemical energy devices for the rechargeable batteries, including metal-sulfur (Li/Na/Mg-S) batteries and metal-ion batteries. Her current research focuses on solid electrolyte interphase (SEI) between electrodes and electrolytes for Na ion batteries. Jenny is a big fan of great adventures (bungee jumping, skydiving, diving and paragliding). In her leisure time, she also likes to play badminton and board games.

Faezeh Makhlooghiazad gained her PhD at the Burwood node of the Institute for Frontier Materials at Deakin University under supervision of Professor Maria Forsyth in 2018 on development of novel solid-state electrolytes for sodium batteries in 2018. She was awarded an Australia Endeavour Fellowship in 2018 to work with Prof. Linda Nazar, a world-leading electrochemist at the University of Waterloo in Canada, where she constructed sodium batteries using OIPCs that she well characterized during her PhD. Currently she is working in Professor Jenny Pringle’s group within the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES) on developing solid-state lithium battery technology based on novel solid-state electrolytes. her strength is in material analysis using techniques such as Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC), Electrochemical Impedance Spectroscopy (EIS), Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM), Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Microscopy (NMR) and also a range of electrochemical techniques such as Cyclic Voltammetry (CV) Galvanostatic Cycling, Chronoamperometry  and device fabrication.

5: Ultra-Batteries: from Research to Application by Mojtaba (Mo) Eftekharnia and Dr Rob Kerr

Abstract: Our research aims to replace some of the components of a Lithium-ion battery with new materials to produce smaller, lighter, safer, and more stable devices. Researchers across the world have long known that we are able to store much more energy in a battery if we replace one half of the battery (the graphite electrode) with pure lithium metal. However, the overall battery performance is not only the result of how all of the individual materials perform in isolation, but how well they interact with each other. Because of this, we also need to consider what happens to the electrolyte when it comes into contact with the very reactive lithium metal. This involves evaluating our new electrolyte materials according to the most relevant properties and also studying how they behave and degrade when they are used in a working lithium metal battery. This requires that we test the cells extensively at laboratory scale and also at prototype scale to see how these materials hold up when tested under more realistic conditions.

Mojtaba (Mo) Eftekharnia joined Deakin University in January 2016 as a research assistant to study the behaviour of Si anode in ionic liquid electrolytes. He then started a research engineer role at Battery Technology Research & Innovation (BatTRI) Hub to employ his mechanical engineering skills and knowledge in Lithium metal battery prototyping where he contributed to the concept and design of a specialized robotic stacker for Li-metal and Na-metal battery stack creation. Currently, while he is a Research Engineer at StorEnergy, he is conducting his PhD within the centre investigating and optimizing the manufacturing process of Li metal batteries in ionic liquid electrolytes with the aid of machine learning.

Dr Rob Kerr is a Research Fellow in the Electromaterials group working on developing new, or ‘beyond Lithium-ion’, battery technologies. Graduating with a PhD in Materials Engineering from Monash University in 2014, his expertise is in the fields of Materials Science and Electrochemistry. The various new technologies and materials which he studies covers a wide range of materials properties and includes; sodium batteries, lithium-metal batteries, ionic liquid electrolytes, and gel-polymer electrolytes. His research looks into understanding how the chemistry of the electrolyte impacts the battery electrode degradation and overall cell electrochemical performance during operation. One of the main components of this research involves building prototypes to better understand how well these electrochemical energy storage devices work when scaled up, and what issues may arise when employed in more realistic scenarios. Through the prototyping activities at the IFM’s Battery Technology Research and Innovation Hub (BatTRI-Hub), he is involved in several Industry research projects such as a 3-year CRC-P for Advanced Hybrid Batteries with Calix Ltd, and a 2-year Linkage Project with Toyota (Japan) into Solid-state Silicon-based Batteries.

6: Circular Economy and E-Waste by Dr. Cristina Pozo-Gonzalo

Abstract: The growing market demand for battery driven by clean energy systems (e.g. electric vehicle and wind power turbines) and portable electronics industries (computers, tablets and mobiles), is increasing the pressure on finite and geolocalised resources (e.g. transition and rare earth metals). Recovering the materials used in batteries is a possibility to maintain the materials in use as long as possible which in turn will lessen primary extractions. Unfortunately less than 10 % of the batteries are recycled, which means that the rest ends up in the landfill. Thus, developing a sustainable metal recovery methodology and in turn add infinite lifetimes to those materials is paramount, following what is called circular economy. This model is not limit only to recover key and expensive materials to reuse in batteries again, but for instance extending the lifetime of the batteries by repurposing in other less energetically demanding applications. Redesign is also an important component in circular economy to facilitate recycle and repurpose energy storage materials by design. Some examples include; design the battery for easy dissemble, materials design for easy recovery, but also focusing in safer and long-lasting technologies.

Dr. Cristina Pozo-Gonzalo attained her Degree and honours in the University of Zaragoza (Spain). After graduating, she received her PhD degree in Chemistry from the University of Manchester (United Kingdom) working with Prof. Peter J. Skabara on the electrochemical synthesis of Conducting Polymers. From 2004, she joined the Centre for Electrochemical Technologies in San Sebastian, (Spain) as the Head of Electrooptical unit where she stayed for 7 years, managing a total of 23 projects. After moving to Australia, she has been working with Prof. Alan Bond at Monash University and in 2012 she joined Deakin University where she has been working in reversible metal air battery with advanced electrolytes, ionic liquids funded by ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES). Currently, she leads research on the use of ionic liquid electrolytes for energy storage devices, focusing on oxygen and sulfur electrochemistry. In the last years, she has been focusing on circular economy in energy materials as a theme champion. During her research career, she has authored and co-authored 80 peer-review international publications, two book chapter and holds 3 patents.

Posted Apr 8, 2020

4 May 2020, 1:00pm

This will be an online event.  Please register and the Deakin Zoom link will be emailed to you prior to the event.