NWO XS Grants awarded to P&E research on Smart Membranes and Lithium Batteries

Nieuws - 24 mei 2022 - Webredactie 3mE

Two NWO-XS grants of up to € 50,000 have been awarded by the Dutch Research Council to Professor Thijs Vlugt and to Dr Hanieh Bazyar, both in Process & Energy’s Engineering Thermodynamics group: Vlugt for his research on safe and efficient recycling Lithium-ion batteries, and Bazyar for her work on developing smart membranes used in waste-water treatment.

Lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) are not only used in countless products, from electronic devices and toys through to electric vehicles, they are also an efficient store of wind and solar energy and as such, are crucial to the whole process of energy transition. Demand for LIBs will therefore only increase in the future yet currently, just 5% of LIBs are recycled. This means that millions of tons of critical raw materials, including valuable lithium itself, are wasted. Moreover, if these batteries are not recycled properly after use, they can cause health and environment problems. The NWO-XS grant will fund Vlugt’s project to investigate the use of novel solvents such as supercritical carbon dioxide and crown ether mixtures for better and more efficient lithium battery recycling.

Bazyar’s research on self-cleaning, smart membranes for better wastewater treatment will develop the concept of ‘adaptive pores.’ Membranes are permeable barriers that allow selective transport of components through micro- and nanometre sized pores. If these pores become blocked - fouled - the membranes become less energy efficient. In this XS-funded project, Bazyar will take two approaches - the introduction of mechanical metamaterial structures and smart actuators into the membranes, and the use of polymer materials with dynamic chemistry - to develop  membranes with adaptive pores - new pores that can be formed on demand - to prevent or significantly delay fouling.