Faraday Institution Battery Research Moves to Next Stage of Commercialisation

Innovate UK Round 6 projects demonstrate successful pathway from research to innovation

On 27th November 2023, 20 grants were awarded to battery tech innovators as part of UKRI’s Faraday Battery Challenge (FBC), delivered by Innovate UK. The competition was open to two types of projects, covering early-stage feasibility studies, and more advanced R&D, with a total of £11 million in funding support available.

Seven of the projects chosen in what was a highly competitive process leverage the knowledge, capabilities and know-how developed by the Faraday Institution research community.

Innovate UK announcement.

This is another proof point that the Faraday Battery Challenge is successfully integrating research, innovation and scaleup programmes to deliver positive impact for the UK. The range of new projects funded by Innovate UK that are based on Faraday Institution research demonstrates the success of our model in actively managing our research programmes and identifying and pursing battery science and engineering ripe for commercialisation.”
Professor Pam Thomas, CEO, Faraday Institution

The flourishing UK battery technology industry will play a critical role in meeting our net zero targets and decarbonising the transport sector. We want to accelerate its growth, generate high value and high tech jobs, and also support individual projects that have significant potential to improve the performance of batteries. This new round of funding enables us to support companies across the battery supply value chain and build on the UK’s world class research and innovation. Each of the FBC grant winners now have the necessary funding to begin pursuing their respective battery innovations. With our support, they’ll be able to progress their projects towards commercialisation, generating real impact on our day-to-day lives.”
Tony Harper, Challenge Director of Faraday Battery Challenge

Direct recycling

Three projects with Faraday Institution researcher involvement aim to accelerate the development of direct battery recycling processes. Such methods seek to recover active material for reuse in battery manufacture. Direct recycling methods are in their infancy but have the potential to reduce processing steps and costs, improve sustainability and lower greenhouse gas emissions. The three projects are:

ReLIGHT aims to demonstrate the feasibility for a low-cost and high-throughput classification methodology of the lithium content in automotive batteries at the end of first life. Knowledge of this quantity will determine the amount of re-lithiation required for the active material ahead of remanufacture and sets the value of the spent material. The project is being led by illumion, who will unlock the power of charge photometry – illumion’s innovative bench-top, operando light-based characterisation technique – in the battery recycling sector. illumion is a University of Cambridge spin-out and former Faraday Institution Entrepreneurial Fellow, whose technology is rooted in the Degradation Project. The project combines expertise with the University of Birmingham (lead of the ReLiB project on recycling and reuse).

SEM image of an NMC particle recycled within CellMine’s novel process - unique rod-like morphologyProject LIBerate aims to efficiently recover cathode materials from black mass (shredded lithium-ion battery waste) through the further development of two novel technologies. First, working with RS Bruce, project lead CellMine will use its patented mechanical separation technology to purify black mass, removing contaminants such as copper, casings and graphite. This will then feed into CellMine’s refinement process that will recycle it into high performing cathode material that can be reused to manufacture new batteries. The project will use the battery scale up facility at the University of St Andrews (the lead of the Faraday Institution’s NEXGENNA project) to manufacture pouch cells incorporating the recovered cathode material, and compare battery performance of the cells versus virgin materials.

Nyobolt is commercialising ultra-fast charging, long-life, high-power battery technologies for applications ranging from industrial to automotive and off highway. Its ReNEW project is focused on the direct recovery of the company’s proprietary anode technology. The project builds on an existing relationship with Coventry University, that has previously been awarded two Faraday Institution Industry Fellowships, which resulted in the development of prototype devices that helped to secure a £8m Series A investment for Nyobolt early in 2021.

Other projects aligned with Faraday Institution research projects

Breathe Lab Pouch cellBreathe Battery Technologies (a former Faraday Institution Entrepreneurial Fellow) has created market-leading physics-based battery management software. Its adaptive charging technology dynamically adjusts the charging current across both the state of charge and state of health windows to deliver either increased charging speed or enhanced cycle life. The Breathe Life Project aims to develop a physics-based approach to predict battery lifetime with quantified uncertainties within a significantly shorter testing timeframe than competitive offerings. A further aim is to introduce a new battery life-control algorithm as a validated prototype software feature to further minimise lifetime uncertainties from cell and usage variations. The parameterisation framework originates from research at Imperial College London as part of the Multi-scale Modelling project that will allow the team to significantly reduce time and data requirements for making lifetime predictions.

Sigma Lithium has developed a 3D lithium anode that represents a lightweight, recyclable, porous carbon fibre scaffold coated with lithium metal, which shows potential to increase battery energy density and enable the safe use of lithium metal by reducing local current densities. In this Round 6 project, the company will partner with researchers at the Materials Department of the University of Oxford to develop high voltage electrolyte and cathode formulations to use with the anodes in prototype cells that are sustainable and offer high energy/power density. Oxford leads the Faraday Institution’s research on the use of lithium-metal anodes and the CATMAT project on next-generation cathodes.

Eatron has developed an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered Intelligent Software Layer (ISL) that enables highly accurate predictions of battery state-of-health and remaining-useful-life. The aiMAGINE project will augment the ISL with an AI-powered decision engine that calculates optimum depth-of-discharge and charge limits policies for battery management systems, thereby increasing real-world battery lifetimes. The project will leverage state-of-the-art models and data from About:Energy to minimise the time taken to train the AI algorithms, resulting in significantly faster scale up and roll out of Eatron’s technology. About:Energy, is a spin out from the University of Birmingham and Imperial College London, set up to help commercialise the battery modelling capability developed by the Faraday Institution’s Multi-scale Modelling project. aiMAGINE builds on advances made by Eatron as part of a previous Innovate UK collaborative R&D project (COBRA) and a Faraday Institution Sprint (VIPER).

Ionetic is developing a design and production platform to establish the manufacture of highly optimised and cost-effective battery-pack solutions to meet the demands of niche vehicle manufacturers (such as buses). The objective of the BESTBUS project, in collaboration with Alexander Dennis and Imperial College London, is to design and build a high-performance battery pack solution that meets the targets of bus manufacturers (decreasing battery cost, increasing life, and increasing passenger number and comfort). The Electrochemical Science and Engineering Group at Imperial will create an experimental framework for accelerated degradation testing under realistic conditions, leveraging the degradation models and diagnostics tools developed as part of the Faraday Institution Multiscale Modelling and previous Innovate UK projects. This framework will be used to extend the battery-pack lifetime.

The Faraday Battery Challenge

The Faraday Battery Challenge (FBC) is a £610 million UKRI Challenge Fund investment, delivering a mission-led, research, innovation and scale up programme that covers “lab to factory” development, cutting-edge research, and national scale-up infrastructure. By leveraging scientific strength, with delivery partners the Faraday Institution, the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre and KTN, the Challenge is building a thriving battery ecosystem that supports industry growth, attracting investment and ensures UK prosperity.

Posted on December 11, 2023