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May: Sebastian Risse (HZB)

Sebastian Risse is head of the research group “Electrochemistry” and deputy head of the research group “Operando Battery Analysis” (CE-GOBA). He is currently completing his habilitation in electrochemistry at the HU Berlin and simultaneously holds the position of deputy head of the Institute for Electrochemical Energy Storage (CE-IEES). In addition to his role in these capacities, Sebastian Risse is the coordinating author for the battery science case of the new synchrotron BESSY III. He also coordinates three BMBF projects on the topic of “metal/sulphur batteries” and represents Helmholtz Zentrum Berlin in the Batteries European Partnership Association (BEPA). We spoke to him about his research, his motivation and the current challenges he is currently facing.


What are you currently working on?

Sebastian Risse: Our research team is currently investigating various metal/sulfur battery systems using operando analysis methods. Our approach is to develop innovative measurement setups that enable simultaneous measurements. This allows us to gain mechanistic insights into the functioning of the batteries from different perspectives during operation. A key aspect of our research is the development of measurement scripts and algorithm-based analysis methods that allow us to capture degradation mechanisms under actual operating conditions in time and space over numerous cycles. We use the knowledge gained to improve synthesis processes, which enables us to increase the service life and safety of batteries significantly.

This methodology can also be successfully transferred to other electrochemical systems, such as electrochemical nitrogen reduction, where we are currently collaborating with Monash University in Australia. Another important field of research is CO2 reduction, which we are investigating in an internal cooperation at HZB.

In addition, we are planning the realization of a new soft-to-tender beamline (SoTeXS) at the synchrotron BESSY II, which will enable operando near-edge spectroscopy at battery interfaces with a very high sample throughput. This project reflects our commitment to pushing scientific boundaries and promoting technological advances in battery research.

What is your personal motivation?

Sebastian Risse: My personal drive is essentially characterized by my scientific curiosity and fruitful interdisciplinary collaboration. It is a great privilege for me to contribute substantially to developing new technologies through my work, especially in the field of energy transition. I am particularly interested in researching fundamental mechanisms, as they are essential for understanding and improving technological processes. A central aspect of my research is the development of more sustainable battery concepts in industry-relevant formats such as pouch cells. This work not only contributes to the scientific community but also promotes a faster transfer of knowledge, which is essential for implementing efficient and environmentally friendly energy solutions.

What kind of challenges are you facing in the near future?

Sebastian Risse: In addition to completing my habilitation at the HUB Berlin, I would like to continue to make a name for myself in the field of operando analysis of electrochemical systems. Both projects are very time-consuming, and therefore, efficient time management is crucial for me. In addition, I see the rapidly advancing digitalization of research as another major challenge. Integrating new ways of analyzing large volumes of measurement data into our day-to-day research is both an opportunity and a challenge.

If you could make a wish for something for your research, what would you wish for?

Sebastian Risse: Continuous funding is essential to maintain the excellent level of battery research in Germany. Unfortunately, the federal budget planning for 2024 in connection with the significant reduction in the Climate and Transformation Fund (KTF) also led to a severe financial cut in German battery research, jeopardizing the continued existence of previously established research networks. I would, therefore, like to see more predictability in our field of research in the future.

In terms of science, I would like to see more applied research, particularly with regard to the energy transition, in which the results can be transferred to feasible concepts that are also relevant to industry in a rapid transfer of knowledge. I believe that close strategic R&D cooperation with partners from the German and European battery industry is particularly useful here to catch up with the enormous lead of Asian battery manufacturers.

Where do you see your discipline in 5-10 years?

Sebastian Risse: Battery technology is likely to develop further over the next five to ten years, although the basic structure of two electrodes and an electrolyte will remain the same. Future research will, therefore, continue to focus on the processes at the interfaces and in the volume of the batteries to optimize their performance. Operando analysis methods will play a key role here by providing real-time insights into the chemical and physical processes during battery operation.

Another driving factor for future battery research will be the sustainability of the raw materials used, particularly concerning which materials are available in Europe and are environmentally compatible. Alternative battery systems such as sodium-ion, metal-sulfur, and multivalent metal-ion batteries could gain importance alongside the established lithium-ion technologies (NMC, LFP, LFMP).

In addition, advancing digitalization and artificial intelligence will bring about transformative changes. AI systems trained with extensive data sets are expected to suggest innovative and efficient electrode and electrolyte compositions. These technological advances promise to increase the efficiency and capacity of batteries significantly and could thus permanently change the energy storage landscape.

ORCID: 0000-0003-0100-8365