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Research University - Warsaw University of Technology

Energy Conversion and Storage

Global and local challenges

Energy Conversion and Storage priority research area is addressing various global and local challenges including global warming and energy security (EU strategy), the competitiveness of European and Polish industry, Electromobility program for reduction of air pollution (Polish government).

Accelerating the transitions to low carbon economy calls for rigorous and relevant research in various disciplines including, among others, energy storage and conversion which are essential to face increasing sustainability challenges in tackling global warming and energy security. Indeed, the renewable energies request the use of efficient electric energy storage systems to maximize the profit and benefit of all the energy generated.

The European and Polish industry also need to tackle the issue of competitiveness hich emerged during the last decades, when a great part of the battery and photovoltaic manufacturing moved from Europe. To overcome this problem and to revitalize academic and industrial cooperation in Europe in a global way, in 2017, the European Commission established the competitive and world-leading battery value chain in Europe - European Battery Alliance. Since "Europe needs to work further together in order to deliver a commonly agreed long term research agenda" for an "ambitious large-scale research initiative", there is no doubt that any progress made within this field in terms of both basic and applied research has a vital importance for sustainable development and future wellness of the European and Polish societies.

At the same time, the Polish government launched the ambitious Electromobility program addressing issues of air pollution due to fossil fuels and internal combustion engines. This program supports all innovative technologies of energy storage and conversion for transport, including Li-ion batteries, hydrogen systems or fuel cells.

Scientific excellence

The Warsaw University of Technology shows scientific excellence in all fields of Energy conversion and storage (ECS) adopting an innovative approach to batteries, fuel cells, power electronic converters, photovoltaics, and solar energy. Vigorous scientific programs are coupled with well-established master and doctoral studies, training of qualified researchers and engineers for both academia and industry. The development of novelties in the energy conversion and storage at WUT resulted in over 70 patent applications and patents, including 25 international.

The research work on innovations in battery technologies at WUT include both materials and concepts, efficient usage (incl. recycling and 2nd use), diverse applications and are also focused on designing new materials for post-lithium-ion batteries. The major scientific achievements in this field include:

  • the development of the concept of composite polymeric electrolytes,
  • the use of organic anion receptors to enhance lithium conductivity in electrolytes,
  • development of concept of nonaqueous proton conducting gel electrolytes for application in electrochromic devices and supercapacitors,
  • the development of novel family of Huckel type salts for application in electrolytes used in lithium and (or) sodium batteries - Licensed in 2018 to French Chemical Company - Arkema.

Power electronics converters (PECs) play the important role in easy aggregation of smart sources and loads (RES, electrical vehicles, smart homes, energy storages, etc.) in one electrical system since they offer good exploitation of energy. WUT research activity in electrical energy conversion and storage for electromobility and smart cities include: efficient and high-frequency power electronics converters and their topologies, the application of new semiconductor materials (e.g. SiC and GaN technology), advanced control algorithms for AC/DC; DC/DC and DC/AC electrical energy conversion (e.g. integration of electrical sub-systems in smart cities, integration of energy storages to power system), sophisticated motion control of electrical drives feed by PECs, contactless energy transfer and charging infrastructure for Electrical Vehicle (e.g. electromobility).

WUT research studies in the field of high temperature fuel cells (Solid Oxide Fuel Cell - SOFC and Molten Carbonate Fuel Cells - MCFC) refer to important features of this technology such as high efficiency due to cogeneration of electricity and heat, high flexibility in fuel and scalability to the power required for vehicles, homes or even urban centres as well as micro scale (micro fuel cells, micro-cells). WUT innovations in the fuel cells area include new ionic conducting materials as well as the development, layout and calculation of different types of fuel cells for various operating conditions and various architectures. SOFC electrolytes and electrodes of desired conductivities are developed and characterized.

MCFC components are tested in a fully equipped lab-set. WUT operates also Alkaline Electrolysis Cells, methane-based steam reformer, 1 kW size MCFC stacks, etc.

The expertise of WUT in the area of photovoltaics is related to fundamental type studies on new generation thin film solar cells as well as the complete PV systems. Scientific research is focused on the relationship between cell performance and manufacturing processes for Cu(In,Ga)Se2(CIGS) and Cu(Zn,Te)Se2 based solar cells.

The research is coordinated by Photovoltaic Platform (PVP) of a longstanding experience in R&D activities in the field of photovoltaic cells and modules technology, confirmed by cooperation with leading international groups and in the implementation and monitoring of photovoltaic installations in Poland.

The area of solar energy in buildings includes both the problems of heat transfer and storage occurring naturally (passively) in a building and its surroundings, taking into account the influence of solar radiation and the analysis of engineering solutions aimed at obtaining in an active way heating and cooling energy as well as electricity from the surroundings. In addition, the research area addresses dynamics of heat transfer phenomena; innovative technologies for capturing and supplying heating, cooling and electric energy; innovative energy storages including short-term and long-term/seasonal storage, the heat capacity of storage media, thermal stratification effects and phase change materials during heat accumulation and recovery.

Research plans

In order to achieve goals defined in European and Polish programs a wide range of specialists coming from chemistry, physics, material sciences, electrical and mechanical engineering need to cooperate closely. An important goal of the POB is to consolidate research expertise and scientific equipment available at WUT to improve scientific excellence and accelerate further development of energy conversion and storage research area. Our goal is to boost the efficiency and reliability of existing and proven energy technologies, by combining fast tracks for forecast, design, realisation, and assessment of new materials and devices, from the atomic level to technical scale, highly interrelated through advanced information technology and characterisation techniques.

To ensure proper conditions for the development of this field research centre on electromobility, power sources and renewable energy will be opened and equipped with the pilot battery production line, energy storage system and technology for thin film preparation.

The University’s expertise in solid state ion conductors will be used to carry out work on a new generation of lithium-air batteries, in which liquid and polymer components are replaced by ceramic materials. These new generation batteries, all solid state batteries, are safer during fast charging/discharging and have become an EU priority for a lithium battery market.

Energy safety and global policy require planning for future research on the physical and chemical properties of sodium and magnesium compounds, that could become safe and inexpensive alternatives for the lithium compounds currently used in lithium batteries. Research plans also include the development of new type non fluorine or fewer fluorine electrolytes with reduced amount of organic solvents for use in post-lithium-ion batteries as well as the concept of multiple salt electrolytes for application in high voltage cathode cells.

Thin film infrastructure, e.g. PLD device, opens extremely interesting research and development area of so-called micro-cells (electrolyte layer < 1μm). Micro-cells show a wide range of operating temperatures and thus can be integrated directly on an electronic chip, while the heat emitted by the electronic circuits can be used to increase the efficiency of the cell. Miniaturization of cells also opens up new perspectives for creating 3D stacking and for deeper integration with utility and wearable electronics, sensors and personal medical devices.

In the field of power electronics converters low and medium voltage power electronics converters based on wide band-gap semiconductor devices, especially Silicon Carbide and Gallium Nitride will be developed. In particular, new activities in the area of transportation, energy storage, smart grids and other applications for low and medium voltage power converters are expected. In consequence, the development of very highefficient and high-power density power electronic building blocks (power converters) are planned. Moreover, research projects in the field of advanced control algorithms for electric vehicles, fast charging stations, power systems and energy storage, are expected.

Due to WUT’s participation in the Battery 2030+ and the Alistore ERI initiatives, the University plans to get involved in 5 research projects devoted to the development of novel materials for lithium –ion and post-lithium-ion cell components. One of them has been granted, three has been submitted and one is in the process of submission to the European Framework Programme. WUT’s role in them is to design novel families of electrolytes (containing low fluorine or non-fluorine components) for a new generation of cells.

In addition to the above actions, WUT has submitted an application to the e-Van call coordinated by the National Centre for Research and Development. The project should result in an increased number of scientific publications as well as new patents and patent applications.

To successfully complete the above-mentioned projects the Faculty teamed up with newly founded University platforms comprising groups working on battery materials and electromobility issues. These endeavours will be additionally supported through funds foreseen in this project.

In relation to WUT’s participation in two EERA (European Energy Research Association) initiatives: Fuel Cells and Hydrogen and Smart Cities, 2 research projects dealing with the development of novel solutions for power-to-gas (Energy storage) and fuel cells (energy conversion) have been submitted. The role of WUT, here, concentrates on the high- temperature fuel cells (MCFC and SOFC), hightemperature electrolysis (Solid Oxide Electrolysis), conversion hydrogen and carbon dioxide into the substitute of Natural Gas. Hybridization of molten carbon fuel cells with solid oxide electrolysis and Sabatier reactors is expected to offer the unique solution in capturing renewable energy sources and balancing power grid.

Energy storage technologies include both conventional solutions as well as prospective technologies based on the use of alternative working factors. Therefore, future research plans will include also compressed air energy storage (CAES), liquid air energy storage (LAES), underground thermal energy storage (UTES) and phase change materials (PCM) storage systems.

Education

Energy Conversion and Storage aims to establish a dedicated high-level training programme to familiarise young researchers with different skills, robotic handlings, and sophisticated materials characterisation techniques. Focused curricula will support dual careers and give assistance to guide the establishment of spin-off companies. A special coaching and mentoring programme will also be implemented for young female researchers, helping them build networks oriented towards a science-career and preparing them for senior positions in research and industry.

In 2004 WUT was one of the initiators of the development of master level European learning program known as MESC program (Materials for Energy Conversion and Storage). The program involves 5 partner Universities from the Alistore ERI, associated partners from the USA, Australia and China as well as industrial partners from the Alistore ERI. The program obtained the prestigious European Master Label granted by the EU. WUT’s participation in the MESC program will enable ca. 120 students to participate in the master’s degree course in years 2019-2024. As an extension of the existing master’s degree course we plan to apply (jointly with the Alistore partners) to the Marie Curie Research Grants Scheme with the aim to establish the so called co-fund doctoral studies. To encourage the participation of Polish students in both master’s and doctoral program the financial support in the form of scholarship is planned.

New program of studies – electromobility – will start at WUT from October 2019, offering the interdisciplinary study of problems of electric vehicles, drives, processing of electricity, operation of charging station infrastructure, energy savings, etc.

Studies in power engineering at WUT are rated as the best in Poland in the ranking of Perspektywy journal. Education in this area is based, to a large extent, on intensive international exchange of students and double diploma. The full course of the first and second cycle studies is offered, both in Polish and English. Every year, approximately 30 students enrol in engineering and master's degree program with English as the language of instruction. The course in Nuclear Power Engineering is conducted exclusively in English, only at the master's level.

Human capital

Energy Conversion and Storage area includes over 100 researchers at WUT, specialised in chemistry, physics, material sciences, electrical and mechanical engineering.