The Battery Research and Innovation Hub at Deakin will seek to advance existing lithium technologies such as well as focus on sustainable alternatives such as sodium batteries, the university says.
The new purpose-built facility features a pilot production line to manufacture advanced battery pouch cells, as well as a dedicated research laboratory for new battery design, development, and prototyping. Crucially, it will also have a cell and systems test facility for multiple battery types and sizes.
Alongside educating future workers, Deakin says the hub will further Victoria’s role in the global supply chain for advanced batteries, as well as meet the bespoke and specialised battery needs of industry partners, including catering specifically to the defence and agriculture sectors, as well as for disaster zones and health settings.
Funding for the east Melbourne facility came from both the Victorian government, which allocated $5.2 million, and Deakin University, which provided $5.1 million.
Deakin, a beacon
The Battery Hub is actually one of two major projects at the university to have attracted significant state government funding, the other being Deakin’s Hycel Technology Hub for hydrogen.
Having secured a total of $14 million from the Victorian government, the lion’s share of that, $9 million, was allocated to Hycel.
This Hycel Technology Hub, similar to the battery hub, will be devoted to the development, testing, training, demonstration and manufacture of hydrogen fuel technology at scale.
It is being constructed on Deakin’s Warrnambool campus, on the coast in Victoria’s west – a region slated to become one of Australia’s future regional hydrogen hubs as part of the National Hydrogen Strategy. It is planned to include a fuel cell wing with specialised fuel cell assembly and testing equipment, plumbed with hydrogen.
At the time of the funding announcement in 2021, Deakin expected Hycel to be completed by December this year – though it appears the launch of both hubs have run slightly behind schedule.
Like the battery hub, the Hycel facility is intended to develop an education pipeline.
Deakin has no shortage of interesting renewable technology projects on the go. Also in 2021, the university opened its new microgrid at the Waurn Ponds campus. The microgrid isn’t just a means for the university to power itself renewably, but also serves as a “living laboratory” – a chance to model, test, and optimise what’s possible with power.
“We have 6,000 data points on our microgrid,” Director of Deakin’s Energy Initiative, Dr Adrian Panow, told pv magazine Australia at the time. “So it becomes a very complex system very, very quickly.”
The $23 million microgrid is comprised of a 7 MW solar farm (made up of 23,000 ground mounted solar panels – the largest on any Australian university campus), a 2 MWh lithium iron phosphate battery, 250 kW of distributed rooftop solar (833 panels) as well as a series of smaller battery systems with a collective capacity of 30 kWh.
Additionally, earlier this year Deakin was awarded $50 million in federal funding for its Recycling and Renewable Energy Commercialisation Hub, or ‘REACH’ project. The university at the time claimed it would be the largest recycling and clean energy advanced manufacturing ecosystem in Australia.
Deakin isn’t Australia’s only beacon for renewable technologies and research – with important research being done at the University of New South Wales, the Australian National University, the Universities of Technology in Sydney and Queensland, and Wollongong – just to name a few.
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