The UK’s Faraday Institution announced a £22.6-million (US$31-million) commitment to build on its momentum in four key research challenges: extending battery life; battery modelling; recycling and reuse; and solid-state batteries. Also, a focused research project on battery safety has been assembled, integrating research previously carried out in several different projects.
The £22.6 million will fund these refocused research projects, including targeting market opportunities and early-stage commercial development, in the following areas:
Extending battery life, led by Prof Clare Grey, University of Cambridge, with researchers from the Universities of Birmingham, Liverpool, Oxford, Sheffield, Southampton, Warwick, Imperial College London and UCL. Although mass manufacture has made lithium-ion batteries cheaper, cost and durability remain obstacles to the widespread adoption of battery electrical vehicles.
Degradation mechanisms can occur on length-scales from the nano to the macroscopic, and timescales from seconds up to years. A full understanding of the causes and effects of degradation of lithium-ion batteries for automotive applications therefore requires synergistic investigation across these length and time scales and with the combination of many experimental techniques.
Battery modeling, led by Dr Gregory Offer, Imperial College London, with researchers from the Universities of Bath, Birmingham, Lancaster, Oxford, Portsmouth, Southampton, Warwick and UCL. Accurate simulations of batteries will provide battery makers with the ability to design advanced batteries without incurring the costs of creating numerous prototypes to test every new material, or new type and configuration of the cells which make up a pack.
To simulate an EV battery pack, the project considers a range of length scales, from the nanoscale—where atoms interact—up to the macroscale of a complete pack and its electronic control mechanisms.
Recycling and reuse (ReLiB), led by Dr Paul Anderson, University of Birmingham, with researchers from the Universities of Edinburgh, Leicester, Newcastle and UCL. To meet government’s aim of moving towards a more circular economy, keeping resources in use as long as possible, minimising waste and promoting resource efficiency, the infrastructure for managing lithium-ion batteries when they are removed from electric vehicles (EVs) must be developed.
The project aims to ensure that the UK has the facilities and regulations required for the safe, economic and environmentally sound management of the materials contained in lithium-ion batteries at the end of their first life and so enhance the overall efficiency of the raw materials supply chain.
Solid-state batteries (SOLBAT), led by Prof Peter Bruce, University of Oxford, with researchers from the Universities of Liverpool, Sheffield, Warwick and UCL. Ceramic solids are sufficiently conductive that electrolytes are no longer the biggest hurdle facing SSB development: the barriers are at the interfaces between the electrolyte and both electrodes, in the mechanics throughout the cell and in the manufacturing at scale.
Battery safety (SafeBatt), led by Prof Paul Shearing of UCL, with researchers from the Universities of Cambridge, Newcastle, Sheffield, Warwick, Imperial College London and UCL. Safety control and countermeasures are built into the design of today's LiB systems, but this adds complexity, cost and weight. As the use of LiBs expands further into automotive, stationary storage, aerospace and other sectors, there is a need to decrease the risk associated with battery usage further and to enable the simplification of safety systems. This can only be achieved through enhanced understanding of the “science of battery safety”.
This project will improve the fundamental understanding of the root causes of cell failure and the mechanisms of failure propagation. Working closely with industry partners, a multi-scale approach is being taken, from the material to the cell and module scale.
Research in these five areas will progress over the next two years to 31 March 2023, subject to funding renewal of the Faraday Institution itself beyond March 2022.
The reshaping of the projects was a complex process that involved senior researchers, industry experts, EPSRC, and a panel of internationally recognised independent experts. Focus was placed on how best to strengthen the UK’s position in electrochemical energy storage research and make UK industry more competitive, building on the foundations of the three years of investigation already performed.
The Faraday Institution research program also encompasses large, coordinated research efforts on next-generation cathode materials, electrode manufacturing, lithium-sulfur batteries and sodium-ion batteries, as well as smaller projects on developing new methods for battery characterization, batteries suitable for use in energy storage solutions in emerging economies, and industry and entrepreneurial fellowships.
Launched just three years ago, the Faraday Institution has convened a research community of more than 450 researchers across 21 universities and a set of 50 industry partners to work on game-changing energy storage technologies.
The first phase of the Faraday Institution is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) as part of UK Research and Innovation through the government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF). Headquartered at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus, the Faraday Institution is a registered charity with an independent board of trustees.