Advanced Energy Material Explained

Diving into advanced energy materials
March 29, 2023

The increasing global energy demand and the critical link between Energy and Environment sustainability lead to discoveries and advancements in energy materials for alternative energy sources. 

Energy Materials pioneering groundbreaking innovations in material development and manufacturing. 

The key importance of energy is to support research into materials for energy applications. 

To meet the growing energy need the energy industry has developed several renewable energy solutions - namely renewable energy generating technology and renewable power - and renewable energy technology.

With this in mind, this article will give you a global understanding of the various types of advanced energy materials, how they're used, and their benefits.

Materials science and high-performance materials

In general, the field of study aims at studying matter on multiple levels. 

At a macro scale to showcase what a material is capable of, this can involve very different properties, from their conductivity to their resistance, to their softness or toughness, and even transparency.

These properties are the product of what happens at smaller scales, they depend entirely on the arrangement of atoms and the underlying structure of the material. 

For example, what makes a diamond tough is the bonds that a carbon atom can create. 

The properties of material directly depend on the atoms and the structure that make up this material.

The field of study aims at understanding the interesting atoms and structures that make up certain properties. 

This pushes researchers to create new materials that solve specific problems.

This field of study has implications in almost all industries, from aerospace (heat shields on rockets) to medicine (silicone realistic implants), construction (lightweight and strong materials), and fashion (heat properties).

The purpose of material science and more specifically advanced energy materials is to create new types of materials that can be used in the energy sector and that display new useful properties.

As one of the oldest building materials, wood and its structure display very interesting properties such as heat retention and resistance. 

Made up of fibers, its study led to the creation of other fiber-type structures. 

This makes for both light and tough materials.

Solar cell materials

Solar energy represents an attractive renewable energy source. 

In that sense, photovoltaic cells are energy harvesters that convert sunlight energy into useful energy using a method known as the photovoltaic effect.

Efficiencies in photovoltaics are significant challenges. 

Conjugated polymer is being created for high photo-conversion efficiency, creating new areas of research to develop solar cells. 

Printable solar cells offer exciting potential for producing more electricity easily and less expensive wherever sunlight shines.

The field of study develops materials that consistently increase the efficiency of our solar panels. 

Thanks to complex structures known as monocrystalline, and high-purity silicon, solar cells' efficiency is now over 20%. 

Efficiency is the ratio between the amount of energy we receive and the amount we produce. 

In that sense, if we receive 100 kWh from the sun, we can use 20 kWh with this type of high-energy density silicon.

Batteries. Materials. Renewables.

International researchers now focus on finding ways to store the energy produced. 

Papers find interest in various topics around high-performance materials and their ability to store energy. 

The holy grail would be a material capable of storing large amounts of energy without discharging, with high input and output, and that is also cheap to create.

Battery components can play a major role in energy management. 

Lithium-ion batteries have traditionally been described as the best alternative to fossil fuels in several ways. 

The rechargeable LIB has been used extensively for small-scale (i.e. mobile electrical devices) and big-scale (i.e. electric vehicles). 

Synthese methods have been investigated for the composition of the materials as a whole.

World research still struggles with large-scale production and the pollution that occurs, as most processes are either very complex, costly, dangerous or all of the above.

Hydrogen and high energy density

Hydrogen is a very interesting element as it can be stored in liquid form, which makes for easy storage and ease of use. 

Its high reactivity is useful to easily use the power of hydrogen, however, it also makes the substance highly reactive and flammable.

This constitutes one of the major obstacles to the hydrogen economy. 

Advanced energy materials cover a lot of useful and needed properties but almost all inventions also come with their side effects and negative counterparts.

Again, energy storage is a complex subject.

Energy storage medium

We've discussed the other side of energy generation, energy storage.

One field comes to the rescue: Ultracapacitors. 

Amongst the various energy storage devices, supercapacitors are high-capacity capacitors with a capacitance value much higher than other capacitors. 

This technology bridges the gap between electrolytic capacitors and rechargeable batteries. 

They have the traits of high-power density, long utilization life, maintenance-free, and environment-protecting energy storage device, this makes them incredibly powerful materials but also makes them expensive.

Research in this direction includes ultrahigh energy density of wearable aqueous supercapacitors, 2D hierarchical porous carbon nanosheets for flexible supercapacitors, and waterproof, ultrahigh areal‐capacitance, wearable supercapacitor fabrics. 

2D materials such as graphene have also shown extraordinary potential in energy storage, including the preparation of transparent, flexible, low-temperature, and solution-processible graphene composite electrodes. 

Piezoelectric materials

Piezoelectric materials display a very interesting property, they generate an electric current when you apply stress to the material such as a squeeze, a bend, or a twist. 

The opposite is also true, applying an electric current to a piezoelectric material will make it move.

Large-scale applications of piezoelectric materials include watches, you might know that there are two types of watches, Quartz which we'll focus on, and Automatic. 

Quartz watches work by passing electricity through quartz, which is a piezoelectric material. 

By counting the movements of the quartz crystal, the watch knows what time it is. 

This phenomenon is very regular and we know a piece of quartz moves exactly a certain number of times per second.

The field of advanced energy materials covers multiple subjects

A challenging aspect of the field is its position at the crossroads between Physics/Chemistry/Biology and others. 

Physics and Chemistry help build the actual material by finding processes to make it.

Biology, on the other hand, serves as a museum of interesting features in nature that can be studied and improved to create new materials. 

This is the most common source of inspiration, it has led to the development of adhesive materials, water repellents, and even the design behind the planes we fly.

The challenges of advanced energy materials reflect the incredible properties that a material can hold. 

No material is perfect, and the challenges are numerous but this field of study constantly shows us the unexpected by developing cutting-edge materials.

Advanced energy materials are needed more than ever, to create, and store our energy. 

The field is huge and still in development, from batteries to solar panels, hydrogen, and even watches, it surrounds us all.

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