Towards greener and more sustainable batteries for electrical energy storage

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Abstract

Ever-growing energy needs and depleting fossil-fuel resources demand the pursuit of sustainable energy alternatives, including both renewable energy sources and sustainable storage technologies. It is therefore essential to incorporate material abundance, eco-efficient synthetic processes and life-cycle analysis into the design of new electrochemical storage systems. At present, a few existing technologies address these issues, but in each case, fundamental and technological hurdles remain to be overcome. Here we provide an overview of the current state of energy storage from a sustainability perspective. We introduce the notion of sustainability through discussion of the energy and environmental costs of state-of-the-art lithium-ion batteries, considering elemental abundance, toxicity, synthetic methods and scalability. With the same themes in mind, we also highlight current and future electrochemical storage systems beyond lithium-ion batteries. The complexity and importance of recycling battery materials is also discussed.

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Figure 1: Past, present and forecast of the world's energy needs up to 2050.
Figure 2: Energy required for the production of a 1 kWh electrochemical storage system.
Figure 3: The CO2 benefit of electric vehicles relies heavily on the origin of the electricity.
Figure 4: Mismatch between the elements constituting biomass and the main constituents of our present Li-ion batteries.
Figure 5: The three-fold benefits in lowering the synthesis temperature of electrode materials.
Figure 6: Recent acceleration in the number of reported electrode materials for sodium-based batteries.

Change history

  • 19 November 2014

    In the html version of this Review originally published, the 'Accepted' date was incorrect, and should have read 11 September 2014. The PDF and print versions are correct.

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Acknowledgements

We thank members of the European network ALISTORE-ERI and of the French Network Réseau sur le Stockage Electrochimique de l'Energie – RS2E for participating in some discussions related to this topic as well as M. Morcrette, P. Poizot, F. Malbosh and M. Armand for insightful comments. We are also thankful to J. Kurzman, W. Walker, C. Lenfant, C. Colin and C.V. Subban for support in editing the manuscript.

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Larcher, D., Tarascon, J. Towards greener and more sustainable batteries for electrical energy storage. Nature Chem 7, 19–29 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/nchem.2085

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