The consequences of a radical climate change have become painfully clear in the last few years. Melting ice caps, heat waves, floods, forest fires, … Our planet is faced with them every day. People have woken up and make a sharp call: something has to be done. But how can we reverse the trend?
Many countries have committed to become climate neutral by 2050. One of the main priorities is to stop the emission of greenhouse gases. This means that we have to stop using oil, coals and gas as energy resources, since they are one of the main reasons of high CO2 emissions. These fossil fuels have to be replaced with green alternatives.
In other words: renewable energy (such as solar and wind energy) is the ideal way to tackle climate change. But how can we ensure that renewable energy is actually being leveraged in our daily lives?
First of all, there’s the economical aspect. The cost of using green, renewable energy resources must not be higher than the cost of traditional fuels. Luckily, according to the World Economic Forum, that tipping point was reached at the end of 2016: solar and wind energy have become cheaper than coal!
There’s also a behavioral aspect: not everyone wants to install unattractive blue solar panels on their roof. That’s why imec is working on a solution. Within the EnergyVille research collaboration and along with the Solliance partners, we develop a new production process for what are known as ‘thin-film solar cells’.
They will enable you to decide the color and shape of solar cells, so they can be integrated in bricks, windows, balustrades, etc.
At the same time, we’re looking for ways to increase the efficiency of solar cells. Think about solar cells that can capture light on both sides, called ‘bifacial’ solar cells. Or so-called ‘tandem’ solar cells, which are basically ‘stacked’ solar cells with a much higher performance.
However, there’s another important hurdle we have to take in order to fully integrate the use of renewable energy in our lives. That is: a way of energy storage to ensure that power is also available on windless or rainy days. The solution can be found in high-performance batteries.
At imec, we’re working on a next generation of batteries, which are extremely powerful, safe and compact. To further increase the use of renewable energy, we will all need such a ‘super battery’ at home. But not only in our house, also in our cars. Because these fast-charging batteries can strongly increase the action radius of electric cars. And a better performance means a higher adoption.
By charging these batteries with renewable energy, we will all be able to contribute countering the effects of climate change.