Up to £55m is being made available by the Faraday Institution for five UK-based consortia to conduct research into battery chemistries, systems and manufacturing methods.
The new projects, which join existing Faraday Institution research projects, have the dual aims of improving current generation lithium ion batteries as well as materials discovery and optimisation projects to support the commercialisation of next-generation batteries.
“It is imperative that the UK takes a lead role in increasing the efficiency of energy storage as the world moves towards low carbon economies and seeks to switch to clean methods of energy production,” said Neil Morris, CEO of the Faraday Institution. “Improvements in EV cost, range and longevity are desired by existing EV owners and those consumers looking to purchase an EV as their next or subsequent car.”
Among the projects is the Oxford University-led Nextrode project, which is looking at realising the electrochemical potential of electrodes for Li-ion batteries.
In a statement, project partner WMG at the University of Warwick said that Li-ion batteries are made with a slurry casting process that mixes active materials before being coated onto thin foils of aluminium or copper. These are then dried and compressed. According to WMG, the process is highly effective for mass production, but is developed empirically through trial and error at great cost to the manufacturer.
Similarly, slurry cast electrodes are said to limit the performance of the battery due to the distribution of active electrochemical materials throughout the electrode structure. Arranging the materials in a structured way can improve battery performance, but at present there is no mass-manufacturing route to do so, so the project will investigate new manufacturing methods to create structured electrodes in a cost-effective way at high volumes.
Project leader Prof Patrick Grant from Oxford University said: “Nextrode aims to strengthen the scientific understanding of existing electrode manufacturing so we can make it more flexible and extract further performance gains, but we will also develop a new generation of manufacturing approaches for ‘smart” electrodes where the different electrode materials are arranged with greater precision and provide even greater performance benefits. We anticipate these benefits could be realised for almost any type of battery chemistry.”
Each project is expected to run over four years.