Swiss Empa: Meet Aurora, the battery robot – Accelerating battery research with robots

By guest author Anna Ettlin from Swiss Empa

September 14, 2023

Empa researchers want to accelerate the development of urgently needed new energy storage systems with the help of the Aurora battery robot. The Aurora project is part of the European research initiative Battery2030+, which was recently awarded over 150 million euros in funding by the EU. In addition, the project is part of the ETH Board’s “Open Research Data” initiative, which promotes digitization and free access to research data.

The world urgently needs new types of energy storage. Developing completely new concepts for batteries and exploring their potential is currently a lengthy process, as Corsin Battaglia, head of Empa’s Materials for Energy Conversion laboratory in Dübendorf and professor at ETH Zurich, emphasizes: “Our goal is to accelerate this process,” he says. This acceleration is currently manifesting itself in the form of the Aurora robot platform, which is to take over the fully automated and, in the future, autonomous material selection, assembly and analysis of battery cells in the laboratory. As part of the European Materials Acceleration Platform, which is being set up within the European Battery2030+ project BIG-MAP, the aim is to achieve a roughly tenfold acceleration of current development processes.

For internationally competitive battery research and development, time-consuming and error-prone steps in the innovation process are now being automated using Aurora. The robotic platform is currently being further developed in the Empa laboratories together with the company Chemspeed Technologies AG. Empa researcher Enea Svaluto-Ferro is implementing the work steps and “training” Aurora. “While the robot weighs, doses and assembles the individual cell components with constant precision, initiates and completes charging cycles precisely and performs other repetitive steps, researchers can use the generated data to drive the innovation process forward,” says Svaluto-Ferro.

Battery 2030+ EU invests EUR 150 million in sustainable batteries


Under Horizon Europe, the EU’s research program, over €150 million funding has been awarded to cutting-edge projects coordinated by Battery 2030+, an initiative for developing advanced green battery technologies. This signifies a renewed confidence in Battery 2030+ coordinated by Uppsala University, Sweden, with the goal to make Europe the world leader in the development and production of green batteries. The new projects are launched under the BATT4EU Partnership and are developed on the basis of the long-term Roadmap for battery research, published by Battery2030+.

With global battery demand forecasted to exceed 1700 GWh in 2025 (according to a McKinsey report), Battery 2030+ aims to foster sustainable solutions in battery science and technology. The initiative focuses on designing green, efficient, durable, and safe batteries. Under the leadership of Kristina Edström at Uppsala University, six new Battery 2030+ projects are now being launched. They will focus on sensors, mechanisms for self-healing, and electrochemical interfaces.

The Battery 2030+ consortium identifies research priorities and defines the roadmap for long-term battery research in Europe. The battery field is highly dynamic, offering numerous opportunities for Swiss industry to contribute to the development of sustainable batteries along the entire value chain, says Corsin Battaglia, head of Empa’s Materials for Energy Conversion laboratory and professor at ETH Zurich, who represents Switzerland in the Battery 2030+ initiative.

The ultimate goal of the new Battery 2030+ projects is to better understand the dynamic processes within batteries to further advance technological growth in this vital field. The EU’s commitment to sustainable energy solutions is evident in Horizon Europe’s continued support of these trailblazing projects, adds Kristina Edström.

An additional ten projects are set to start next year thanks to a funding of approximately EUR 60 million; in 2025, nine new projects are anticipated with a funding of another EUR 60 million. Some of them will include more applied research areas like production and recycling, some will be more data science-driven.