The idea to develop batteries was due to a practical need. I was, and still am, working with flexible electronics. Quite often we were able to produce the other components by printing, and they were flexible or even stretchable. But the energy storage component was bulky and difficult to integrate into the other parts, or it contained too toxic or dangerous materials.

My colleague was facing the same issue and asked if we could use a method from one paper (precisely, this one: Sira Suren and Soorathep Kheawhom, “Development of a High Energy Density Flexible Zinc-Air Battery”, Journal of The Electrochemical Society, 163 (6) A846-A850 (2016)) and make a flexible zinc-air battery with high energy density. Well, as I had very limited knowhow on how to make batteries, I failed, and the project ended before we had made a functional battery.

This did not stop me from trying. I felt that I had found a research field, which made me very excited. It was already possibly to harvest energy in a clean way. And for example organic solar cells, which were one of my research topics, were already produced industrially in a beautiful way: see e.g. Organic solar cells by ASCA. Energy from wind and sun was available. However, storing the energy was not yet working as well.

I knew that becoming a battery manufacturing expert would require a lot of work. Thus, I started to listen to webinars, visited battery conferences and events, read a lot, and discussed about batteries with several people. One of the conferences I participated was the EMRS Spring meeting in 2019. It was a great event, but maybe not the best one to start with as the talks were very academic and went into details, often without a general overview of the topics. Thus, it was difficult to follow and understand the big picture in some of the battery talks without much previous knowledge. Another event I visited to learn about batteries, was the IDTechEx Show in 2018. As the talks were more technical, or sales presentations, it was easier to follow them as a newcomer in the battery field.

I also started to build up a lab where we could make batteries in a reliable and repeatable way. As I was already working with flexible and printed electronics, we had some relevant processing infra and knowhow available. However, not everything. And it was not so easy to find out exactly what I would need. I also did not have a very big budget available. But step by step, and with help from my colleagues, we started to build the facilities. I’ll post a list of necessary equipment for a battery lab soon, so stay tuned.

I also soon realized that I want to develop also other than flexible batteries. Batteries are such an important enabler for cutting down the CO2 emissions. Electric vehicles need them, and we are not able to utilize solar and wind energy without being able to store the energy. Currently, I’m focusing mainly on next generation batteries for electric vehicles and am very excited also about possibilities for stationary energy storage with new and more sustainable battery materials. So sorry colleagues, I still have not made the flexible secondary battery with high energy density for you! Luckily, some other researchers have been developing those in the meanwhile: IDTechEx report on flexible batteries.