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  • Discussions abound regarding the future of African energy systems, yet they typically overlook the different starting points and development objectives of each country. This Perspective highlights these differences and calls for more context-specific attention to define low-carbon energy pathways.

    • Yacob Mulugetta
    • Youba Sokona
    • Abdulmutalib Yussuff
  • The development of high-energy Li-ion batteries is being geared towards cobalt-free cathodes because of economic and social–environmental concerns. Here the authors analyse the chemistry, thermodynamics and resource potential of these strategic transition metals, and propose that the use of cobalt will likely continue.

    • William E. Gent
    • Grace M. Busse
    • Kurt Z. House
  • The growth of small-scale off-grid solar products across the Global South has expanded access to energy but also created a rising issue of e-waste. Munro et al. explore the structure of the off-grid solar sector, how it creates barriers to addressing e-waste, and what research is needed to overcome them.

    • Paul G. Munro
    • Shanil Samarakoon
    • Collen Zalengera
  • The rapid and large-scale changes required to decarbonize energy systems will have varying impacts on different societal groups, making decisions hard. This Perspective calls for greater attention to the use of realist approaches to research, which can help understand what works for whom, under what circumstances and why.

    • Michael J. Fell
    • Katy Roelich
    • Lucie Middlemiss
  • Often presented as a bridge technology to a future zero-carbon energy system, natural gas infrastructure expansion remains hotly debated. Here Kemfert et al. discuss recent research to argue how such expansion hinders climate targets and energy transitions and suggest how research can support better planning.

    • Claudia Kemfert
    • Fabian Präger
    • Hanna Brauers
  • Li–S batteries are a promising next-generation storage technology and the assessment of their performance is critical for their development. Here the authors analyse key Li–S cell parameters, formulate the energy density calculation and discuss design targets for practical applications.

    • Guangmin Zhou
    • Hao Chen
    • Yi Cui
  • Electrochemical charge storage in a confined space is often interpreted as either electrostatic adsorption or Faradaic intercalation. Here the authors propose that the storage mechanism is a continuous transition between the two phenomena depending on the extent of ion solvation and ion–host interaction.

    • Simon Fleischmann
    • Yuan Zhang
    • Veronica Augustyn
  • Pacific Island Countries and Territories are seeking to improve their energy systems, which face challenges such as climate change. This Perspective discusses research priorities to support Pacific Island Countries and Territories in building energy resilience while drawing on their own unique strengths and existing community responses.

    • Long Seng To
    • Anna Bruce
    • Atul Raturi
  • Silicon-containing batteries are increasingly becoming a reality in the mass market, but their calendar aging behaviours have received comparatively little attention. Researchers from the Silicon Consortium Project discuss the issues surrounding the calendar lifetime of silicon anodes for lithium-ion batteries.

    • Josefine D. McBrayer
    • Marco-Tulio F. Rodrigues
    • Brian Cunningham
  • Oxygen redox in Li-rich oxide cathodes is of both fundamental and practical interest in Li-ion battery development. Bruce and team examine the current understanding of oxygen-redox processes, especially those concerning O2 formation, and discuss strategies that can harness oxygen redox with suppressed side effects.

    • Robert A. House
    • John-Joseph Marie
    • Peter G. Bruce
  • Performance assessments of redox flow batteries (RFBs) can be challenging due to inconsistency in testing methods and conditions. Here the authors summarize major performance metrics of RFBs, analyse their degradation mechanisms and propose testing protocols for benchmarking.

    • Yanxin Yao
    • Jiafeng Lei
    • Yi-Chun Lu
  • Performance breakthroughs in rechargeable batteries are regularly reported in academic publications. Here the authors closely examine literature data on aluminium batteries and offer a realistic perspective on the technology.

    • Ehsan Faegh
    • Benjamin Ng
    • William E. Mustain
  • Mental accounting refers to the mental budgets people use to organize and track resource use. In this Perspective, the authors demonstrate how principles of mental accounting can be applied to energy behaviour and decision-making, and outline future research directions.

    • Ulf J. J. Hahnel
    • Gilles Chatelain
    • Tobias Brosch
  • Zinc metal batteries (ZMBs) provide a promising alternative to lithium metal batteries but share the formidable challenges in reversibility. The authors discuss the key performance metrics of ZMBs and propose a protocol to assess the true reversibility of zinc metal anodes.

    • Lin Ma
    • Marshall A. Schroeder
    • Kang Xu
  • Coulombic efficiency (CE) has been frequently used to assess the cyclability of newly developed materials for lithium metal batteries. The authors argue that caution must be exercised during the assessment of CE, and propose a CE testing protocol for the development of lithium metal batteries.

    • Jie Xiao
    • Qiuyan Li
    • M. Stanley Whittingham
  • Evaluating the impact of renewable energy innovation research funding is important to design more productive research and development programmes. Pless et al. discuss the key challenges in effective evaluation of research funding outcomes and identify solutions.

    • Jacquelyn Pless
    • Cameron Hepburn
    • Niall Farrell
  • Energy use occurs in homes, workplaces and communities in which complex webs of social relations already exist. In this Perspective, the authors draw on recent qualitative research to propose a typology of social relations that shape how people engage with and use energy.

    • Tom Hargreaves
    • Lucie Middlemiss