Dublin researcher awarded €2.5m to create the battery of the future

15 Feb 2016

The new battery can charge in just a few minutes, last longer than today’s batteries and can be hidden within any kind of material, even the human body.

Prof Valeria Nicolosi has been awarded a €2.5m ERC Consolidator Grant to create an innovative new type of energy storage device that can charge in just a few minutes, last longer than today’s batteries and can be hidden within any kind of material, even the human body.

Nicolosi is a researcher at the SFI-funded AMBER materials science research centre at Trinity College Dublin.

The ERC Consolidator Grant is one of the most sought-after competitive research grants in Europe and will provide Prof Nicolosi with €2.5m in funding over five years for her project “3D2DPrint”.

Nicolosi is working on creating  a new type of extremely long-lasting battery that can come in any shape or size and camouflaged within any type of material, such as clothing, car dashboards, mobile phones or even inside your body in an implanted cardiac device.

She will use the funding to establish a multidisciplinary team to develop the new class of energy storage device.

Nicolosi is Ireland’s only four-time ERC awardee, and has been awarded more than €11m in funding for her research in the past five years at Trinity.

“Since 2011, the first year of my ERC Starting Grant, my group has grown from three to 25 people,” Nicolosi said.

“The ERC grants I have been awarded were not only important in helping fund our research and grow our team, but to also help leverage more funding and realise partnerships with large multinationals. What is key is that these Grants allow us to take the next step with our research – whether it is the licensing of technology or starting up a new company.”

The batteries of the future

Nicolosi has developed novel 2-dimensional nanomaterials and 3D-printing processes. It is hoped that this innovative approach will produce a range of energy storage devices by exploiting 3D printing to develop complex material shapes, which may offer further performance enhancement at low cost.

The project Nicolosi and her team are working on will develop fully customisable batteries – they will be custom made and formulated for whatever specific application needed. They will be able to be used for general fitness, such as within a 3D-printed smart fitness watch, as well as being manufactured and fully integrated within a 3D-printed implanted cardiac device. These batteries will also, compared to the current Li-battery technology, be fully non-harmful and non-flammable.

Nicolosi was awarded a PhD in physics by Trinity in 2006. In 2008, she moved to the University of Oxford with a UK Royal Academy of Engineering/EPSRC Fellowship, and in 2011 she was awarded a ERC starting grant to expand her work in nanomaterials and energy storage. In January 2012, she returned to Trinity and became an ERC research professor at the schools of chemistry and physics and a principal investigator with CRANN and AMBER.

She has published more than 100 papers in high-profile international journals and has spoken at many major conferences and events. In 2012, she was awarded the RDS/Intel Prize for Nanoscience in recognition of her contribution to the field.

“The work Prof Nicolosi and her team are doing is at the forefront of their fields, and this grant will help them take the next step in combining the team’s expertise of advanced materials methods to integrate nanomaterials into 3D-printed energy storage devices,” said Prof Michael Morris, director of AMBER.

“During her time at Trinity, Prof Nicolosi has received over €11 million in funding, including €4.3 million to date from the ERC, and now an additional €2.5 million to further her research. She is an exceptional asset to the AMBER team and this funding also reaffirms how competitive Ireland is as a place for research.”

Battery technology image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years