"To this end, alternative materials solutions are needed that can replace the materials currently used in batteries. An example of this is the use of wood biomass as a substitute for synthetic graphite.
Of course, we also need efficient recycling of materials," she says.
Lähde’s research group will continue to advance this research in the BATCircle2 project funded by Business Finland. The group will also develop new solutions, so-called next-generation lithium-sulphur batteries, which will provide more efficient ways of storing energy in the future. However, there are still challenges in lithium-sulphur batteries and they are not widely used commercially, so there is much room for development.
“After all, the advantage of lithium-sulphur batteries is their high energy density compared to current batteries. With the help of materials science, we aim to create structures that can solve the current challenges and extend their cycle life by adapting the increase in volume and preventing sulphur from escaping from the structures during battery charge-discharge cycles.,” says Lähde.
Another side of the issue of sustainable materials also includes the recycling of Li-ion batteries and how all valuable materials from the batteries can be recovered. When recycling batteries, materials must be separated and purified so that they can be reused in batteries. This is a challenging task.
“There are processes that allow nickel, cobalt and manganese to be recovered at the moment, but carbon or more specifically graphite should also be recovered. However, the graphite used in Li-ion batteries must be extremely pure more than 99.95%, which poses challenges for the reuse of graphite from used batteries. Our group is developing a thermal method to achieve these purity requirements.”
“Regarding battery materials, research is progressing very fast. We currently have two on-going projects that focus specifically on anode materials. We are studying how aerosols and high temperature processes can be utilised and how the materials used in batteries can be separated, purified and reused,” says Lähde.
“The results are promising and will hopefully enable us to improve the adequacy of raw materials throughout Europe. In addition, this will naturally affect the competitiveness of Finland and also of Europe.”
Green chemistry means new solutions for carbon capture
In addition to new energy solutions, methods such as carbon capture are needed which can contribute to reducing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and thus technically enable our current lifestyles.
The aerosol processes developed in Lähde’s research group are simple, one-stage methods that can easily produce nanoparticles without large amounts of solvents, which reduces the chemical loads generated in the production.
“The produced nanomaterials and composites, such as titanium dioxide, can function as photocatalysts, among other things. They enable many reactions through sunlight, which in turn can reduce the carbon footprint,” says Lähde.
The next steps in research are new, more efficient materials that can capture carbon dioxide. It is hoped that by reducing its amount, it will also be possible to control global warming.
Professor, aerosol technology, from 1 September 2023 until further notice
Assistant Professor, University of Eastern Finland, 2019–2023
Academy of Finland Research Fellow 2017–2022
Docent (Fine Particle and Aerosol Chemistry), University of Eastern Finland, 2014
Doctor of Philosophy (Chemistry), University of Jyväskylä, 2000–2008
Research and development of sustainable materials and research infrastructure.
Teaching related to the topic, student guidance and leading a research group.
Comprehensive and close cooperation with both Finnish and foreign research organisations and companies.
Anna Lähde photos, photo1 ja photo2