Lithium Ion Cathode Materials – FutureCat

Delivering improved EV performance demands high energy density batteries to improve range, high power densities for fast charging, longer lifetimes, and lower cost through reduced reliance on expensive metals. This requires fundamental materials discovery and characterisation to deepen researcher’s understanding of the underpinning mechanisms and mechanics, and push performance limits in a sustainable manner.  

FutureCat addresses these challenges through three integrated research themes designing and developing near- and next-generation cathodes, with a focus on high-capacity, high-performance Ni-rich oxide cathodes, but also considering sustainable alternatives that avoid supply-chain at-risk elements.  

The advances the project is targeting represent significant commercial opportunities. FutureCat, in collaboration with WMG, University of Warwick, is well positioned to develop scalable solutions for next-generation cathodes towards industry relevant battery formats such as pouch cells. The project is joined by industry partners across the battery supply chain. Three new partners join the consortium in Phase 2 working on material lifetime extension via atomic layer coatings, new advanced electrolytes to maximise cathode performance, and advanced X-ray tomography characterisation methods to look inside batteries as they operate. 

Project presentation from the Faraday Institution Conference, November 2021

Timeline with milestone/deliverables (to September 2025)

FutureCat is targeting three transformative step-changes:  

  • Novel redox processes: understanding novel redox processes and delivering new high-energy/power cathodes exploiting new knowledge. 
  • Scalable designer morphologies: longer lifetime, high-energy/power through concentration gradient, single crystal and thin coatings. 
  • Materials delivery: scaling-up industrially relevant Ni-rich cathodes and developing 
  • scalable routes to new earth-abundant cathode materials

FutureCat will deliver cathode materials and fabrication methodologies that provide enhanced energy density, cycle-life, power output and reduced costs, empowering UK battery manufacturing.  

Project innovations

FutureCat sets ambitious targets to make fundamental cathode breakthroughs that deliver significant improvements in energy/power density, cost and first life:  

  • Electrochemical step-changes through strategic synthesis of doped-cathode variants exhibiting controlled morphology, where novel additives/interfaces promote fast ion conduction; including cation-plus-anion redox active materials, gaining a fundamental understanding of anion redox processes to harness and stabilise additional capacity; fundamental scientific enquiry of underpinning synthesis–structure–property relationship governing performance.  
  • Establishing design principles for durable cathodes informed by mechanochemical properties; developing new mechanical-testing methods informing the synthetic design process.  
  • Determining new methodologies for assessing disorder in high-capacity cathodes, fast-tracking theory-meeting-experiment to inform then realise new target chemistries.  

This innovation pathway also considers material/method scalability and lean-manufacturing techniques to smooth the path from laboratory to commercialisation.  

One of the Faraday Battery Challenge Round 5 projects awarded in January 2023 was CatContiCryst, led by NiTech Solutions. It aims to demonstrate the technical feasibility of manufacturing cathode precursor materials using unique, patented, continuous oscillating baffled reactor/crystalliser technology, which allows manipulation of the chemical reaction and solid-state formation processes that can lead to improved final product performance of NMC cathode materials. The project aims to provide process data to aid future scale-up, define the process parameters that produce single-crystal cathode morphologies subject to reduced degradation in use in batteries, and define the benefits of continuous processing over batch technologies (improved production efficiency and quality). Know-how on the chemical and solid-state processes and cell production and testing is led by the University of Sheffield, in part developed as part of the Faraday Institution’s FutureCat project. The project also includes CPI.

Project funding
1 October 2019 – 30 September 2025
Principal Investigator
Professor Serena Cussen
University of Sheffield

Professor Louis Piper
University of Warwick
Louis Piper

Project Leader
Dr Innes McClelland
University of Sheffield
University Partners
University of Sheffield (Lead)
University of Cambridge
University College London
Lancaster University
Imperial College London
University of Birmingham
University of Nottingham
Research Organisations, Facilities and Institutes
Diamond Light Source
ISIS Neutron and Muon Source
+ 8 Industrial Partners


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