Chemical formulas that provide the ‘recipe’ for key ingredients in advanced energy storage, developed and enhanced at UOW, are being commercialised through an industry partnership.
Institute for Superconducting and Electronic Materials (ISEM) researcher Dr Zhenguo Huang has developed compounds containing boron, one of the critical chemical elements that make up the planet.
He has also reformulated existing methods for synthesising compounds used in energy storage to make them more efficient.
Dr Huang, an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Research Award (DECRA) recipient (2012-2015), has licensed the formulas via UOW to Melbourne-based specialist chemical manufacturer, Boron Molecular, which was spun out from CSIRO in 2001.
Boron Molecular focuses on producing specialised chemicals used in the manufacture of pharmaceuticals and high-end electronics.
The 10-year agreement between UOW and Boron Molecular will see commercial expansion of the processes developed by Dr Huang for application in hydrogen energy storage solutions and rechargeable batteries, a market valued into the billions of dollars.
In research conducted under his ARC DECRA, Dr Huang synthesised compounds critical to the development of effective hydrogen storage using cheap and common starting materials and featuring high purity and better yields than previously reported methods.
“In the fundamental research we conducted under the DECRA funding, we reported the first B3H8 ionic liquid related to hydrogen storage, and settled a 90-year argument over the existence of a key compound in the field of borane chemistry,” Dr Huang said.
The commercialisation arrangements demonstrate how fundamental investigations can influence innovation and drive disruption in the commercial sector, Dr Huang said.
“It takes hard work to convert research into actual products, so this partnership with Boron Molecular is evidence of effectiveness in research commercialisation that is helping Australian industries become more innovative,” Dr Huang said.
“Improving energy storage is a critical area if we, as a society, are to make progress in improving energy efficiency, and exploit more environment friendly energy solutions. “There is much research underway in this area and it is exciting to see that our research investigations have led to a promising commercial opportunity, particularly given the national focus on driving innovation.”
Dr Huang’s research has also lead to the commercial-scale production of a new boron-based electrolyte salt for sodium-ion batteries, which could enable wide deployment of cheap sodium-ion batteries for use in large-scale renewable energy storage.
The UOW-Boron Molecular partnership will also help the broader research community in enabling access to high quality hydrogen storage compounds.