Debye Annual Lecture

The Debye Annual Lecture is a special annual event at which an internationally renowned scientist delivers a keynote lecture on one of the institute’s fields of interest.

Next Annual Lecture will be organized in October 2024.

Prof. Dr. Philipp Adelhelm
Debye Annual Lecture speaker of 2023

The rapid growth in battery demand, combined with resource issues and supply risks, raises questions about whether alternative battery technologies are needed that complement or partly replace lithium-ion and lead-acid batteries. A range of alternatives such as high temperature batteries or redox-flow systems are already available, with Na-ion batteries (SIBs or NIBs) being the latest contender.

Na-Ion Batteries: Energy Storage Based on Abundant Elements

Sodium Ion battery
Sodium-ion battery

The main goal for SIBs is to develop batteries based on abundant, non-critical elements that reach, at the same time, similar energy densities compared to Li-ion batteries (LIBs). SIBs have the potential to be more cost effective than LIBs while reaching similar cycle life. As a major advantage compared to other alternative cell chemistries, SIBs can be produced on the same manufacturing lines like LIBs therefore taking advantage of existing manufacturing technology. Recent announcements by Chinese cell and car manufacturers are further raising the interest in this technology. In fact, the first Na-ion Gigafactory has opened in November 2022 in China and Chinese OEMs announced to implement SIBs in electric vehicles. This clearly shows that the technology is now reaching commercialization.

On the other hand, there are needs for further improvements in electrode materials and electrolytes to further develop the technology. This talk gives an overview on Na-ion batteries and recent developments. The state-of-the art will be summarized followed by a discussion on what materials can be used (and not used) compared to Li-ion batteries. Specific examples include how nanoscale chemical strategies can be used to tune the properties of layered oxides as cathode materials for SIBs[3], and how the intercalation of solvated ions enables a new “electrode chemistry”.[4],[5] The talk will also include an example of how X-ray tomography can be used to study morphological changes and particle displacement during battery charging/discharging.[6]


[1] Sodium-ion batteries: Materials, Characterization and Technology ISBN: 978-3-527-34709-4, Wiley Dec 2022, Titirici/Adelhelm/Hu (Editors)

[2] P. Nayak et al. Angew. Chemie. Int. Ed., 2018, DOI: 10.1002/anie.201703772

[3] L. Yang et al. Adv. Functional Materials, 2021, DOI: 10.1002/adfm.202102939

[4] G. Ferrero et al. Adv. Energy Materials, 2022, DOI: 10.1002/aenm.202202377

[5] G. Avall et al. Adv. Energy Materials, 2023, DOI: tbd

[6] Z. Zhang et al. Adv. Energy Materials, 2023, DOI: 10.1002/aenm.202203143

Previous Annual Lecture speakers:

  • 2023: Prof. Dr. Philipp Adelhelm Na-Ion Batteries: Energy Storage Based on Abundant Elements

  • 2022: Prof. Hans-Jurgen Butt (Experimental Physics of Interfaces group at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research): Electrostatic charging: the source of the missing force on moving drops

  • 2021: No Debye Annual Lecture due to the Covid-19 pandemic

  • 2020: No Debye Annual Lecture due to the Covid-19 pandemic
  • 2019: The Debye Institute celebrated its 30th anniversary with a scientific symposium
  • 2018: Prof. Monika Ritsch-Marte (Department for Physiology and Medical Physics, Innsbruck Medical University): Synthetic Holography Trapping and Imaging: The Importance of Shaping Your Wavefront
  • 2017: Prof. Ben L. Feringa (Stratingh Institute for Chemistry, Center for Systems Chemistry & Zernike Institute for Advanced Materials, University of Groningen, the Netherlands, Nobel Prize for Chemistry 2016): The art of building small
  • 2016: Prof. Luis M. Liz-Marzán (Center for Cooperative Research in Biomaterials, CIC biomaGUNE, Spain): Composite plasmonic nanomaterials for biosensing and catalysis
  • 2015: Prof. Ulrike Diebold (Institute of Applied Physics, Vienna University of Technology, Austria): Surface science studies of an iron oxide model catalyst
  • 2014 Jubilee Lecture: Prof. Hans-Joachim Freund (Department of Chemical Physics, Fritz-Haber-Institut der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, Germany): Models for heterogeneous catalysts: complex materials at the atomic level
  • 2014 Jubilee Lecture: Prof. Jan Vermant (Department of Materials, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology ETH Zürich, Switzerland / KU Leuven): Colloids at interfaces: how the rules of the game change…
  • 2014 Jubilee Lecture: Prof. Romain Quidant (Institute of Photonic Sciences, Spain): Shining a (bright) light on the very small
  • 2013: Prof. Martien A. Cohen Stuart (Physical Chemistry and Soft Matter Chair Group, Wageningen University, the Netherlands): Biomimetic materials: from modelatine to viromimic
  • 2012: Prof. Ib Chorkendorff (Danish National Research Foundation Center for Individual Nanoparticle Functionality, Technical University of Denmark, Denmark): Heterogeneous catalysis: a part of the solution for future energy conversion