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Joint CSIC-ALBA Laboratory opens to drive sustainable energy solutions

The ALBA Synchrotron and the Institute of Materials Science of Barcelona (ICMAB-CSIC) have opened a new laboratory addressed to study batteries and high temperature superconductors. The new facility, located at the ALBA Synchrotron premises, enables users of ALBA, including the important community of CSIC researchers, to significantly optimize experiments involving synchrotron light. The project was jointly funded by the CSIC PTI+ TransEner, funded by the European NextGeneration funds and the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan, and ALBA.

24 October 2023

In the current landscape of global challenges, the development of innovative materials and technologies enabling energy transition is crucial for moving toward a green, sustainable, and resilient economy. In particular, advances in high-temperature superconducting tapes hold promise for the energy sector, with applications including fusion energy, power lines, wind energy, and aeronautics. In parallel, the development of batteries based on abundant and low-cost elements is essential for further advancing electric mobility, grid storage, and Internet of Things applications.

To address these challenges, ICMAB-CSIC and ALBA have teamed up to create and commission the Joint CSIC-ALBA Laboratory for Energy Applications, a new facility complementing the test benches being installed at ALBA Synchrotron premises within the CSIC PTI+ TransEner initiative. The new laboratory is designed to facilitate and optimize scientific research conducted at the test benches, providing researchers with on-site equipment for their experiments. This is particularly beneficial for Spanish and international research teams that are not based in Barcelona area but also benefits the highly complex development of local groups in the area of superconductive cable developments.

The new laboratory has two specialization areas, both devoted to finding greener energy applications in relevant industrial sectors. One is aimed at producing and advancing the knowledge of high-throughput superconducting tapes and the second one enables assembling batteries in different formats, in order to analyse them under in situ (real-time observation) and operando (in operation) conditions using synchrotron-based characterization techniques.

ICMAB researchers, from left to right: Victor Fuentes, Dino Tonti, Elzbieta Pach, Teresa Puig, M. Rosa Palacín and Alexandre Ponrouch | ICMAB-CSIC

High-temperature superconducting tapes are materials of great interest due to their excellent electrical properties, enabling more efficient energy transport and generation. In this new laboratory, scientists can prepare samples in situ at a rapid pace and under controlled atmospheres, closely resembling industrial conditions. “The goal to create cheaper and more efficient manufacturing processes of superconducting tapes. The process that we have developed at the ICMAB-CSIC increases the growth rate by 100 (reducing cost by a factor of 5), so only in-situ synchrotron light can follow it” says Teresa Puig, leader of the Superconducting Materials and Large Scale Nanostructures (SUMAN) group at ICMAB-CSIC.

Furthermore, the laboratory is fully equipped for the preparation and the study of operando batteries in different formats, either specifically designed or closer to commercial formats. Besides coin-cells, a second kind of increasing economic importance called ‘pouch cells’, which is already being used in some electric vehicles, can be assembled and tested in this new lab before analysing them with synchrotron light. “Having this laboratory at ALBA is of great help for the battery community. "Besides having the capability to assemble various types of cells, we can enhance our experiment preparation with synchrotron light to make the most of the precious beamtime allocated,” says M. Rosa Palacín, researcher at the Solid State Chemistry (SSC) Group of ICMAB-CSIC.

The establishment of the Joint CSIC-ALBA Laboratory for Energy Applications marks a significant milestone on the path towards sustainable energy solutions. Through collaborative research, innovation, and state-of-the-art facilities, this initiative aims to make a substantial contribution to advancing the energy transition.

About the PTI+ TransEner

PTI+ TransEner is a network that brings together research teams from various disciplines in collaboration with industry to develop knowledge to boost the energy transition. The platform seeks key technologies to shape a more affordable, reliable, competitive and sustainable energy system, both socially and environmentally. In a context of scarcity of resources, increased energy consumption and climate change, the transformation of the energy model is one of the main priorities to move towards a green, sustainable and resilient economy.

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