SIEW Energy Insights: Forging Ahead with New Battery Technologies

Industry experts from A*STAR and the Singapore Battery Consortium explored the next wave of developments in battery technologies. By Jason Yun

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New battery technologies are regarded as one of the means to cope with new and increasing energy demands. This topic took the spotlight at one of the SIEW Energy Insights sessions co-led by A*STAR and the Singapore Battery Consortium.

Associate Professor Karthik Kumar, Director, Science and Engineering Research Council, Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), opened the session by sharing the mission of A*STAR’s recently-launched Urban and GreenTech Office (UGTO): to coordinate research across urban and green technology research institutions. Its focus will be on niche areas such as carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS), hydrogen, and energy efficiency and electrification, which include battery technology.

Innovative solutions for battery recycling and repurposing

When it comes to e-waste and lithium-ion batteries (LIB) recycling, Professor Alex Yan from NTU-Singapore CEA Alliance for Research in the Circular Economy (SCARCE) underscored their commitment to researching on innovative solutions to recycle and recover resources from e-waste.

Specifically, SCARCE is looking into state-of-the-art LIB recycling processes that can recycle more than 80% of useful constituent elements, with potentially high recycling rates of over 90%. He also demonstrated how new batteries made from recycled old LIB can perform well, achieving fast charging capabilities and long-cycling performance. Compared to the pyrometallurgy process, the new LIB recycling process has a lower environmental impact.

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Dr Chiam Sing Yang, Director, Singapore Battery Consortium, then launched the Consortium’s whitepaper on Repurposing of LIB, outlining the technology and its market aspects. The whitepaper also identified challenges, gaps, patent landscape, and the global value chain of repurposing LIB.

Dr Chiam added that Singapore’s fast-growing local ecosystem is looking into this space. For example, Durapower has deployed second-life batteries and a global independent standards developer UL is examining battery standards.

The last speaker, Dr Yeo Zhi Quan, Deputy Group Manager, Sustainability and Life Cycle Engineer, Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology, emphasised the need to understand the environmental aspects of products and systems through Life Cycle Assessments (LCA).

While LCA helps in decision-making and planning by incorporating environmental impact KPIs such as global warming potential, using it as an analysis for individual projects might not be as straightforward as it seems. He drew on an analogy of using reusable masks as compared with disposable masks—and how an individual needs to use it six to eight times before being considered more environmental-friendly.

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Technology as the game changer

In a Q&A session, moderator Dr Limin Hee, Director, Centre for Liveable Cities, raised a question on the trade-off between competing sustainability and cost goals.

Dr Yeo explained that businesses first need to understand their environmental impact. Governments are also realising the importance of holding businesses accountable through means such as carbon taxes, which may spur businesses to explore alternative business models and new technologies.

Professor Karthik shared that the research community can help policymakers overcome the energy trilemma through technology, although methods such as the LCA needs to be adapted to conduct holistic assessments. Some of the technologies A*STAR is focusing on for the energy transition include CCUS and hydrogen use.

Dr Chiam further added that energy storage systems can contribute through complementing renewables for grid stability.

In closing, Dr Yeo stressed that there is likely no single game-changer technology but multiple complementary technologies; hence the need for decision-making tools such as the LCA for optimisation and deployment of technologies.

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