Image of Leif Asp
​Leif Asp with a bobbin of carbon fibre yarn
​Image: Johan Bodell

Top ten scientific breakthrough of the year

​We have previously reported about a study, led by Chalmers University of Technology, that has shown that carbon fibres can work as battery electrodes, storing energy directly. This research has now been listed by the regarded Physics World Magazine as one of this year’s biggest breakthroughs.
​It is a team of expert editors at Physics World that each year lists what they regard as the top ten biggest breakthroughs of the year. One out of these ten is then awarded Breakthrough of the Year and the other nine highly commended breakthroughs are listed in no particular order. 

The Physics World 2018 Breakthrough of the Year went to Pablo Jarillo-Herrero of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US and colleagues for their discoveries in the area of graphene. In 2012 the title went to the discovery of a Higgs-like particle, which the following year was awarded with the Nobel Prize.

"I’m very happy that our research on materials here at Chalmers University of Technology gain attention in this context. It is a big thing", says Leif Asp.

Asp headed up a multidisciplinary group of researchers who recently published a study on how the microstructure of carbon fibres affects their electrochemical properties – that is, their ability to operate as electrodes in a lithium-ion battery. So far this has been an unexplored research field.

Increased energy efficiency with multi-functional carbon fibre in a structural battery
Illustration: Yen Strandqvist

What the researchers have shown is that carbon fibres can perform more tasks than simply act as a reinforcing material. They can store energy, for example. This opens up new opportunities for structural batteries, where the carbon fibre becomes part of the energy system. 

The use of this type of multifunctional material can contribute to a significant weight-reduction in the aircraft and vehicles of the future – a key challenge for electrification.

Has gained world-wide attention

The discovery has also attracted a lot of international interest with over 170 articles in more than 30 countries.

"Yes, I have been contacted by a lot of journalists. Among other BBC called me and wanted a live radio interview, which was quite exciting", says Leif Asp.

The industry has also shown great interest and Airbus has entered an agreement with Chalmers University of Technology, since it chimes with one of Airbus’ own strategic research fields: integrated energy storage. 

Peter Linde from Airbus says that one absolutely crucial reason for the collaboration is the cutting-edge research being conducted by Leif Asp’s research team, together with colleagues at KTH Royal Institute of Technology within the field of multifunctional composites for energy storage.

More information

The research has been funded by Vinnova, the Swedish Energy Agency, the Swedish Research Council and Alistore European Research Institute.
Read the scientific article

Graphitic microstructure and performance of carbon fibre Li-ion structural battery electrodes published in the journal Multifunctional Materials.

Read more about how carbon fibre can store energy
More information about the Airbus collaboration
For additional information, contact:
Leif Asp, Professor of Material and Computational Mechanics at Chalmers University of Technology, 031-772 15 43,

Page manager Published: Mon 17 Dec 2018.