Griffith professor powering the future of batteries

Griffith School of Environment and the Centre for Clean Environment and Energy Professor Eddie Shanqing Zhang
Griffith School of Environment and the Centre for Clean Environment and Energy Professor Eddie Shanqing Zhang

Inspired by 16th century Chinese medicine, Griffith scientists have turned to nature for solutions to improve the performance of batteries.

Professor Eddie Shanqing Zhang and his team have identified three natural sources which will not only reduce pollution in the manufacturing of lithium ion batteries and lithium-sulfur batteries, but improve overall performance and cyclability. This discovery could power a new generation of batteries using renewable power generation.

It’s this innovative research focus that saw Professor Zhang named as the mid/senior career research winner in the Griffith University Vice Chancellor’s Research Excellence Awards last night (April 19).

Professor Zhang, who works in the Griffith School of Environment and the Centre for Clean Environment and Energy, said his lifelong dream had been to develop new technologies that would change the world.

And now after 20 years of research and world first discoveries he is on the cusp of another major contribution to the science field.

“This century there are three important things we must explore — the environment, energy and health,” he said.

“I am working on two of those areas. Batteries will further improve our modern life but we need to address environmental issues by reducing the use of unsustainable materials and the production of toxic wastes in the manufacturing process.”

The team has identified Gum Acacia, a deciduous legume from Northeast Africa used in food and medicine as a soluble dietary fiber, Sodium Algnate (sea algae) and bamboo carbon has natural sources of highly efficient polymers.

“Among them, the use of the Gum Acacia, as binder could reduce the pollution in the manufacturing process by eliminating the use of toxic solvent NMP and saving millions dollars recycling equipment and improve overall performance of the produced Li-S battery by about 500% in comparison with conventional lithium ion battery,” Professor Zhang said.

“This discovery and achievement will attract battery communities’ interest in developing and commercializing green electrode fabrication process for Lithium-sulfur cells.

“This fabrication strategy could also be applied to other rechargeable battery systems such as lithium-air and sodium-ion batteries.”

A series of findings and creations of Zhang’s group have been published in high impact journals Advanced Energy Materials, Nano Letter and Nano Energy.

During Professor Zhang’s career he has developed a series of patented and commercialised photoelectrochemical sensors for environmental monitoring based on the functional nanomaterials.

Professor Zhang, said he was humbled to receive a Griffith University Vice Chancellor’s Research Excellence Award “It is very encouraging of my hard work and I hope it helps make more people aware of what I am trying to achieve through my research,” he said.

Earlier this year Professor Zhang was invited to the Nature Conference on Materials and Energy in Wuhan China, and has been asked to be a guest lecturer at two prestigious universities in China; Peking University and Tsinghua University.