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Moving Toward Clean Energy Solutions With Battery Technology

Graphical representation of a green battery on a black background surrounded by green lines.
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As industries from automotive to construction emphasize battery-powered operations, there is an increased need for batteries that are holistically more sustainable. This stems from a multitude of factors including advancing technology and addressing global challenges, like the adoption of clean energy solutions and the safer disposal and recycling of batteries.

Today, lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries are used in most commercial products, but they consume a high amount of energy during production – in fact, the production of 1 kWh of Li-ion batteries consumes 50–60 kWh of energy. Innovative technologies are helping scientists explore a variety of new materials for more energy-dense batteries, such as solid-state batteries and sodium-based batteries.

However, there are still challenges to overcome before they can be mass-produced and widely adopted. This article will discuss the possibilities and challenges that lie ahead in battery technology, and how working together with other industry experts can carve a path forward in creating sustainable battery solutions.

Technologies powering next-generation batteries

It is increasingly evident that the future will necessitate a diverse array of technologies to cater to varying applications and requirements, rather than a single, dominant battery technology emerging victorious.


Scientists and engineers are using cutting-edge technologies and analytical solutions – such as electron microscopy, spectroscopy, inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP), Fourier transform infrared (FTIR), Raman, X-ray fluorescence (XRF) and chromatography – to better understand the options for clean energy batteries that meet industry needs. From exploring new chemistries to scaling up manufacturing processes, researchers require a suite of analytical tools that help them push the boundaries of what is possible with battery technology.


In both industry and academia, researchers are exploring a variety of new materials and battery technologies, including solid-state electrolytes batteries (SSE) and sodium-based batteries, to power next-generation batteries. In fact, vehicle manufacturers are leading research into solid-state batteries, with the electrification of auto fleets keeping the automotive industry in the driver’s seat of innovation.


In the near-term, it seems that SSE batteries have the most potential, but it is also too early to tell how ongoing research and development will continue for long-term solutions in cleaner battery options. Solid-state batteries have several advantages over traditional Li-ion batteries. They offer higher energy density, which is particularly important for electric vehicles where the goal is to maximize energy storage while minimizing size and weight.

In addition, they are more environmentally friendly, which addresses immediate sustainability concerns. Solid-state batteries have the potential to reduce the carbon footprint of electric vehicle batteries by up to 39% because they can store more energy with less material.


Sodium-based batteries also offer advantages, having a higher availability of raw materials that may help to alleviate pressure on supply chains. Also, the materials don’t have the same level of toxicity, which may prove to make it a front-runner over time.

While each new technology has promising applications in the future, all are still in the experimental stage and have not yet reached widespread commercialization. There are significant technical and logistical hurdles that must be addressed before they can be mass-produced and adopted on a large scale.   


Creating holistically sustainable batteries

As the techniques for material characterization and battery development continue to evolve, researchers can now scrutinize materials at the microscopic and molecular levels with precision. For example, researchers are already seeing that solid-state batteries require new architectural designs and manufacturing processes that are different from those used for traditional Li-ion batteries. This granular understanding allows for the fine-tuning of material properties to meet specific performance standards, paving the way for safer, more energy-dense and eco-friendly battery technologies.


However, additional complexities in the manufacturing process increase the cost of production, which is a contributing factor when considering new technologies that are holistically sustainable.


The value of cross-industry collaboration

As scientists around the world collaborate to develop batteries with different chemistries and solutions to scale up the manufacturing process, as well as share information for better analysis, it is clear that a collective approach is required to move toward clean energy solutions.

By sharing knowledge often siloed in industry or academia, this collaboration can propel the research and development of clean energy batteries forward. Cross-industry partnerships are vital for translating laboratory breakthroughs into real-world applications.

The future of clean energy batteries

Many labs and industry partners that are at the forefront of battery analysis, characterization and testing are catering to the needs of various generations and types of batteries with innovative tools and “fit-for-purpose” solutions.


However, as each technology is still in the heavy research phase, we are just beginning to understand drawbacks and likely won’t see some of these shortcomings until the solutions are being tested in the field. It is possible that any new technology used will require a redesign of supply chains and manufacturing models if the new technology is going to be a true replacement for current Li-ion batteries.


As scientists continue to make discoveries that will move us collectively toward the future of clean energy batteries, it is becoming clearer that the future of battery technologies will not be a one-size-fits-all battery but rather a variety of solutions depending on the nature and performances required by the applications.

About the author:

Dan joined Thermo Fisher Scientific in 1998 as a controller, and over the next three years, held several leadership roles within finance and operations. In 2001, he was appointed business leader for the company’s elemental analysis product line, and a year later became vice president and general manager of that business. In 2007, he was promoted to president, process instruments, and in 2011 he was appointed president, chemical analysis. Dan was named president, chromatography and mass spectrometry, in 2012, and in 2016, was promoted to senior vice president and president, analytical instruments. In September 2017, he assumed responsibility for the company’s Instrument and Enterprise Services organization (Unity Lab Services brand). 

Before joining Thermo Fisher Scientific, Dan worked for the international accounting firm Arthur Andersen for eight years. He holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Wesleyan University and a master’s degree in professional accounting from the University of Hartford.