Work Group 4
Climate, Mobility & Energy

Photonics plays a role in the targets of Decarbonisation towards Zero Emission Road Transport, Clean Energy Transition, the Industrial Battery Value Chain, Renewable Energy with photovoltaics, energy saving by Smart Lighting and saving the rainforests by Vertical Farming with horticultural lighting.

Decarbonisation is one of the most critical societal challenges faced by the European Union. Transportation currently provides about 14% of 2010 global greenhouse gas emissions : Greenhouse gas emissions from this sector primarily involve fossil fuels burned for road, rail, air, and marine transportation. Nearly all (95%) of the world's transportation energy comes from petroleum-based fuels, namely gasoline and diesel. Smarter and more efficient technical solutions are important factors in the path to reducing and eventually eliminating the need for fossil fuels in the transport sector. Both the transport and the automotive sectors need to decrease their environmental footprints, reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in production and use.

Photonics is the key tool to make our mobile and digital society work.

In line with these goals, the European Parliament and the Council have ruled to decarbonise the mobility sector. The ruling involves reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the vehicles to be sold in Europe.
In line with the EU's commitments under the Paris Agreement , the regulation stipulates that new cars should emit 37.5% lower CO2 emissions by 2030 compared to 2021, while new vans will need to reduce their emissions by 31%.

Achieving these targets will likely include the electrification of powertrains either in purely electrically-powered vehicles or in hybrid vehicles containing an electric motor and another form of engine, usually an internal combustion engine.
Widespread uptake of such vehicles will be needed, and require affordable production of sustainable batteries. Battery production is, therefore, a strategic means for the transition to clean energy and the competitiveness of the automotive sector which is an important economic engine of Europe.

The automotive industry is a global industry that strives to develop clean cars. It is essential for both Europeans and the automotive industry that Europe can take a lead on this global shift. The measurable CO2 targets provide incentives, and although ambitious, these goals are enforceable with the appropriate tools. EU standards to reduce CO2 emissions will not only be effective for climate targets to meet the EU's commitments under the Paris Agreement but will also increase energy efficiency by reducing fuel consumption.

Supporting technologies will be needed to reach climate, mobility and energy goals. The emissions regulation compliance will require better and more widely deployed measurement systems, where photonics sensing is a prime candidate that could be used both in vehicles as well as within targeted infrastructure locations, (for example, photonics sensors in the form of portable emission measurement systems, or fibre-based sensors that can monitor the health and charge conditions inside the battery). Photonics sensors and fibreoptic interconnects can also provide EMC resistant and resilient low-cost data transmission between different sensors to a centralised board computer. Free space optical sensing and communication in the presence of obscurants in the atmosphere can enable weather resilient sensing where radar sensing cannot provide the required resolution. Other photonic developments will be needed in high sensitivity avalanche photodetectors and arrays for light detection and long-range active imaging. The sensing technologies will support use cases demanding a wider field of view to support surround-view demands. Such requirements have implications for detector size and other properties. Other developments will be needed in terms of high-efficient, low-cost lasers also in more eye-safe wavelength bands above 1400 nm, capable of operating at high temperatures (85°-105°C) without cooling.

Technology for measuring the battery state of charge, state of health, and inside temperature can also be built on photonics and fibre optics. The current uncertainty relating to battery temperature and health forces manufacturers to use safety margins built into today's battery monitoring systems preventing the complete battery capacity to be utilised efficiently, slower charging, increased safety risks, and lack of information of remaining battery life. The current lack of battery health monitoring makes it hard to set a resale price of batteries and is also difficult for the seller to grant a warranty or establish a cause of a malfunction. As a consequence, secondary use will be associated with large uncertainties and hence economic risk. Such a scenario results in a poor secondary market for batteries with increased risk of premature scrapping and hence a poor use of nature's resources. A sensor providing a history of the battery and the ability to measure the battery capacity much more exactly will allow a user to reliably assess the remaining battery life. This improved sensing will allow secondary pricing and warranties with less uncertainty, which in turn will pave the way for a commercial secondary market for batteries. Integration of sensors into and onto the cells may therefore enable an extension of the useful battery life in first and second life applications, while dramatically improving safety.

Further information

The detailed Photonics21 Work Group Climate, Mobility & Energy photonics research and innovation priorities are outlined in the Photonics Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda.

The Work Group Climate, Mobility & Energy further has a dedicated section in the Photonics21 member area.