Tesla Motor’s Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer JB Straubel signed a 5-year research agreement with Dalhousie University’s Jeff Dahn, Li-ion battery researcher with the Faculty of Science, and his group of students, postdoctoral researchers and technical staff. The work will begin in June of 2016 when the support from 3M and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) ends. (3M and NSERC have funded Dahn’s Industrial Research Chair in Materials for Advanced Batteries since 1996.)
The new collaboration, a first between the leading American electric vehicle company and a Canadian university, will bring together the teams of Dahn and Tesla’s Director of Battery Technology, Kurt Kelty.
Jeff Dahn has 25 researchers in his lab, including graduate students, postdoctoral researchers and technical staff. The lab focuses on the physics and chemistry of materials for energy storage, primarily in the area of Lithium-ion batteries. Dahn’s goals are to improve the energy density; increase the safety; decrease the cost; and improve the cycle and calendar lifetime of the batteries.
There are projects on new cathode materials; new anode materials, and Li-ion battery safety that are well established and have a long history in the group. The Dahn Group studies of the reasons for the failure of Li-ion cells began in 2008 and now represent the largest focus area for the group. Specific research areas include:
Combinatorial and high throughput materials science. Topics under exploration in this area include sputtering systems for combinatorial materials preparation; 64-electrode electrochemical cells (thin films of possible battery materials are deposited through a mask onto a circuit board cell plate, producing 64 unique compositions); combi robot for Li applications (The combinatorial robot allows rapid synthesis over wide composition ranges making it easy to quickly determine the effects of various conditions during synthesis); and combinatorial solutions handling robot for respirator carbons.
New Li-ion electrode materials.
Advanced diagnostics to determine Li-ion cell failure mechanisms
The mechanisms of electrolyte additives.
Fundamental studies of safety of Na-ion and Li-ion batteries.
Rechargeable Zn-air cells and PEM fuel cells.
New materials for respirator applications.
Our research group’s goal is to increase the energy density and lifetime of Li-ion batteries, so we can drive down costs in automotive and grid energy storage applications.—Prof. Dahn
Dahn will continue to work with 3M Canada until their current research agreement ends in June 2016. Then, Dahn and his research group will begin their exclusive five-year partnership with Tesla.
I’m so thankful for 3M Canada and NSERC’s support over the years. We’ve had many successes together that have created products for 3M, which are key milestones in my career and in my students’ careers.—Prof. Dahn
Dahn references the development of the nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMC) positive electrode material as the most notable success of the partnership.
At Tesla Motors, Kelty manages the battery cell and pack advanced development group, responsible for setting and implementing Tesla’s battery usage strategy as well as the module and pack engineering strategy. Before joining Tesla, Kelty worked for Matsushita (Panasonic, Tesla’s primary battery partner) for nearly 15 years, 7 of those in Japan.
At Panasonic, Kelty worked in various planning and marketing capacities related to Ni-MH and Li-ion batteries. During his last 5 years there, he founded and led Panasonic’s R&D lab in Silicon Valley and created R&D alliances between Panasonic and other battery and fuel cell developers in the US.