Battery technology is an area of constant innovation.  For years we have been trying to squeeze a little bit more performance from our electronic devices. However, we are now at a juncture where the power demands of these devices have risen to a level where future development of entire industries depends on significant advances in this technology.

Investment in battery technology comes from a wide range of industries and is of sufficient importance that many governments, including the US and UK, are also investing heavily. 

In renewable energy, innovations in the battery sector will be vital to the development of appropriate local power storage which in turn should enable a higher proportion of worldwide electricity production to rely on periodic renewable generation systems.  As concerns grow about climate change and a larger proportion of the world’s energy is derived from renewable sources, the challenges posed by the variable and periodic nature of wind and solar power will become even more apparent.  One solution is to store the energy from the renewable resource to smooth out the peaks and troughs in consumer demand but this presents a major challenge using existing battery technologies.

Large-scale battery installations are springing up across electricity grids around the world, to provide this flexibility. For example, in 2017, approximately 1.4GW of this adaptable power storage capacity was installed worldwide and there is presently around 500MW of large-scale battery capacity installed around the UK, a figure that is expected to double within three years according to the analysts Aurora Energy Research.

In the world of electric vehicles, cheaper, lighter more environmentally friendly battery technologies will be necessary for this type of vehicle to be widely adopted and to meet the goal of providing truly sustainable personal vehicles.   There is growing global demand for fully electric and zero emission vehicles, with the market estimated to be worth £5bn in the UK and £50bn in Europe by 2025. Innovation in the EV market is now essential to enable governments worldwide to meet their commitments to reduce dependence on traditional petrol and diesel technologies – for example the UK government commitment to end the sales of conventional petrol and diesel cars by 2040 in order to meet clean air targets.  One of the major problems facing EV development relates to the limitations of their batteries: the “range anxiety” of consumers, their cost, their weight, the charge time, the charge density (the charge per kilogram of battery) and the availability of charging stations. Every aspect of battery performance needs to be improved before the automotive industry (as well as the new entrants into this arena) can produce an EV that is a viable mass market replacement for traditional combustion engine vehicles.

There is even a growing body of research into electric or hybrid powered airplanes. The reduction in traditional fuels for airplanes would go some way to reducing the environmental impact of our increasing international flight habit.  Although it is thought that large scale role out of electric airplanes is still many years away, Zunum Aero collaborating with 24M ambitiously hope to introduce a 12 seater short distance hybrid airplane in 2022.

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Sustainability in the battery industry

REPURPOSE, RECYCLE, REINVENT

The sustainability of the leading existing batteries is a looming problem that is starting to attract a great deal of investment.  Against that background, there are great opportunities for innovative companies with a strong IP position to be rewarded handsomely.

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Mewburn Ellis

FORWARD MAGAZINE - NEW EDITION!

Mewburn Ellis Forward is a biannual publication that celebrates the best of innovation and exploration. Through its pages we hope to inform and entertain, but also to encourage discussion about the most compelling developments taking place in the scientific and entrepreneurial world. Along the way, we’ll engage with the IP challenges that international organisations face every day.

The third edition is out now and includes features on the fight against superbugs, the circular plastic economy, the growth of biotech in Singapore, the rise of bioinformatics and an interview with the founders of the UK’s new inland surf centre, The Wave.

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