A major factor for future development is the generation and distribution of energy, which is required for transportation, industrial and commercial activities, buildings and infrastructure, water distribution, and food production. Urban areas have experienced dramatic growth and development over the last two decades, which has led to high-energy consumption. Around 80% of the global energy supply is provided by fossil fuels and only 9% by renewable energy sources. The unrestrained use of non-renewable fossil fuels is significantly contributing towards global warming as well as significantly polluting the environment.
In order to challenge this energy crisis and to ensure a healthy, viable, and environmentally sound future, the world demands innovation in the energy sector. The best replacement for fossil fuels is the use of renewable energy resources - such as wind, solar, geothermal, tidal - which are constantly replenished and will never run out. However, their intrinsic issue of be unable to provide a continuous energy supply limits the prolific utilization of renewable energy systems. Therefore, a massive power storage system is required, such as rechargeable batteries, pumping-up power generation, flywheels, and compressed gas energy storage. Out of these listed methods, rechargeable batteries show many advantages in terms of high energy density and flexibility in design and low environmental impact if installations. Rechargeable batteries are already play a vital role in our everyday lives, by powering our smartphones, laptops, and power tools. Many of these are powered by Li-ion batteries which is currently the technology with the highest energy for a certain volume or weight, i.e. a small battery can power a device for a long time. However, for large scale applications, like electric cars, the performance is not good enough. In addition, from a sustainability point of view, the technology can also be improved, since today expensive and environmentally unfriendly metals are used. Thus, there is a large interest to develop new battery technologies.
One of the most promising technologies for future batteries for large scale energy storage is based on the conversion chemistry of sulphur. In theory a car powered by a sulphur-based battery could drive more than 1000 km on one charge. In addition, sulphur is abundant and cheap, the use of this technology would contribute to sustainable development within the energy storage market. Several advancements have been made, but still the technology is not ready to be applied in practical applications. To take this step, new materials with tailored properties need to be developed and this has been the topic of my thesis. By using materials modified from the very small length scales of atoms and up to improve the performance. Based on the results from my work several routes can be identified which can be taken to realise the potential of sulphur-based batteries, which both have very good performance and use environmentally friendly and low cost materials.