Seed Projects Details
Fast-paced, focused projects, that ran for 12 months from June 2022 that aimed to widen the Faraday Institution’s research scope and inform future priorities for its research programme
Most of the seed projects completed in May 2023
Silicon is widely regarded as the best next generation anode material, offering high energy density (leading to longer EV range), and is a possible ‘drop-in’ replacement for existing production capabilities. However, the degradation of cells containing Si–based anodes is faster compared to conventional graphite electrodes, principally due to the expansion and contraction of silicon during cycling, and this is hampering their adoption. Four seed projects are taking different approaches to develop a better fundamental understanding of the processes involved as a step to designing mitigation strategies that would accelerate the commercialisation of such anodes.
Scalable and sustainable manufacture of Si anodes for transforming commercial batteries
The project led by Professor Siddharth Patwardhan at the University of Sheffield is seeking to develop the first commercially viable large-scale process for the bulk manufacture of porous silicon for graphite anodes with high silicon content (>20%). Obtaining stable performance with high Si content requires porous-Si (p-Si), but current methods for bulk p-Si manufacture are elaborate and energy-intensive, hence intrinsically uneconomical and unscalable. The team comprising Prof. Solomon Brown and Max Yan, will develop their work on magnesiothermic reduction, an intrinsically scalable method for high quality p-Si production, by addressing process chemistry challenges, such as decreasing the operating temperature, which would make the route more economical, sustainable, and commercially attractive.
Operando pair distribution function computed tomography (PDF-CT) for advanced batteries
Next-generation batteries with improved energy densities will use non-crystalline active materials or contain amorphous or semi-crystalline phases at some point in their charge/discharge cycle. These materials can be difficult to probe using traditional techniques. Dr Alexander Rettie of UCL, with collaborators at Diamond Light Source, ESRF and OXLiD, will further develop the relatively new technique of pair-distribution-function computed tomography (PDF-CT), which facilitates atomic mapping of working cells at a microscopic scale. It will develop researchers’ understanding of materials in silicon-based anodes, their evolution during cycling, and may suggest pathways to optimise battery performance. This technique will also be applied to lithium-sulfur technology.
Microwave assisted processing for interface tailoring of Si-C anodes (MAP IT)
MAP IT, led by Professor Bala Vaidhyanathan of Loughborough University, aims to deliver silicon-carbon composite anodes with optimised porosity, surface area and versatile coating compositions, to overcome some of the challenges of commercialisation of Si-based anodes. The team will design and implement a fast, energy efficient microwave processing pathway that offers greater process control and selective heating at the surface of the anode particles. Anode powder manufacturer Talga Technologies will steer the process/performance optimisation and benchmarking.
A team led by Professor Paul Shearing of UCL, with guidance from Nexeon and Britishvolt, will apply the cutting-edge imaging tool X-ray computed tomography to quantify volume expansion and provide new insight into the fundamental relationship between the morphological evolution of Si-based anodes and the performance of the device during cycling. This will involve non-destructive imaging at the cell, electrode and particle level in order to track the nucleation of failure events, and its translation to macroscopic architectural deformation. Researchers will explore the development of a data repository to disseminate image data for use by other research groups.
Exploring new electrolytes for next-generation Li-ion batteries
By exploring five novel classes of electrolytes, a project led by Dr Wesley Dose of the University of Leicester is aiming to deliver electrolyte solutions that: improve the long-term cycling performance of high-capacity nickel-rich lithium-ion batteries compared to those with conventional ethylene carbonate-based electrolytes; and achieve superior interfacial stabilisation of both the cathode and anode. After initial screening, best performing solutions will be carried forward into cycle-life tests in commercially relevant pouch cells. Electrolyte innovations that improve cell performance are attractive to cell manufacturers as they are “drop-in” enablers that require minimal changes to the manufacturing process
Phase-independent electrolytes for improved battery safety and recycling
Associate Professor Paul McGonigal of Durham University, with the University of York, will investigate a recently invented and fundamentally new class of organic solid-state electrolytes that show promise as lightweight, flexible and manufacturable alternatives that could improve battery safety and recyclability. ‘Phase-independent electrolytes’ (PIEs) are small organic molecules engineered to be a liquid during battery manufacture but a flexible semi-conducting solid at room temperature. The project will aim to demonstrate the potential of PIEs as commercially viable electrolytes. The team will evaluate the cycling performance of the electrolytes in coin cells, optimise conductivity by screening dopants, optimise melting temperatures and stability through molecular design, and start to establish industry partnerships.
Manufacturing of advanced electrodes with green solvents – MAEGS
Professor James Clark of the University of York and Professor Emma Kendrick of the University of Birmingham will lead a project to provide a low cost and low environmental impact route for manufacturing and recycling of lithium-ion battery electrodes. Researchers will develop novel green solvent-binder systems to provide alternatives to solvent N-methyl pyrrolidone (NMP) and binder polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF), which both have hazards associated with them or their manufacture/end of life. The electrodes will be homogeneous and uniform and designed for easy recovery of materials at end-of-life. The applicability of these green solvent-binder systems will be tested through electrode manufacture, electrochemical testing, and demonstration of the feasibility for direct loop recycling.
Scale-up manufacturing of next generation ultra-high power Li-ion cathodes
Professor Jawwad Darr and Dr Thomas Ashton of UCL are leading a project to demonstrate the scale-up of a low energy manufacturing route to controlled defect battery cathode powders. The proprietary route works across a wide range of cathode compositional space in both Li– and Na–ion chemistry and could offer up to 90% energy reduction in the final synthesis steps. The resultant active materials are stable to cycling and have optimised defect structures that can give a >10% high power performance boost, making them of interest to fast charging or motorsport applications. The UCL team, in collaboration with industry partner QinetiQ, will optimise and benchmark the electrochemical performance of these materials in large format multi-layer pouch cells, perform a technoeconomic analysis of the process, and develop a business plan and exploitation strategy for the technology.
Targeted design and testing of novel magnesium battery electrolytes for safe, high energy density storage
Dr Stuart Robertson of the University of Strathclyde will lead a project with the University of Sheffield and the National Physical Laboratory to explore the potential use of magnesium as a more sustainable, cheaper alternative to lithium in rechargeable high energy density batteries. The project aims to help transition Mg-ion batteries to market by developing suitable electrolytes that (i) can support efficient and repeatable transfer of magnesium between the electrodes and (ii) have a high stability to withstand the operating conditions of the battery. These electrolytes will be tested for electrochemical performance against existing cathode materials and analysed to establish performance and stability.
Demonstration of the lithium-air gas diffusion electrode and system scoping
Associate Professor Lee Johnson and teams at the Universities of Nottingham and Oxford aim to address a significant barrier to realising lithium-air batteries, which are of particular interest to aerospace applications. The project builds on recent results to exploit gas diffusion polymers that define gas channels within the air electrode, resulting in a step change in capacity and rate. The project will investigate different carbons and gas diffusion polymers, establish the optimum composite porous air electrode, incorporate the new electrodes into a demonstrator pouch cell and develop a system model of the battery. The results will inform industry partners, including Lubrizol, and define future research challenges.
Rational design and manufacture of stacked Li–CO2 pouch cells
Assistant Professor Yunlong Zhao of the University of Surrey will lead a project with industry partners Johnson Matthey and the National Physical Laboratory to use CO2 as a cathodic reactant, which has the potential to be used as an industrial gas treatment and contribute to carbon neutrality. Researchers will tackle the limiting factors of Li-CO2 battery performance, which limits the practical application of this technology, by using their unique on-chip Li-CO2 batteries platform for efficient electrocatalyst screening. Selected catalysts will be used to manufacture stacked Li-CO2 pouch cells, and their capacity and reliability assessed for potential use in practical applications. Moreover, research into Li-CO2 electrochemistry could help to understand and further optimise the feasibility of Li-air batteries.
APPLICATIONS AND DATA MANAGEMENT
Battery multiphasE modelling for improving SAFEty (BESAFE)
Dr Huizhi Wang of Imperial College London will lead a project to bridge the gap between thermofluid science and battery electrochemistry and develop a first-of-a-kind multiphase multiphysics model of battery failure via thermal runaway (a self-sustaining cascade of exothermic reactions that produce large volumes of gas). The model will consider gas dynamics and its interactions with electrochemical and thermal behaviours, with the goal of advancing the understanding of initiation and propagation of the thermal runaway processes and accelerate the design of countermeasures. The project is supported by Williams Advanced Engineering and complements the Faraday Institution’s Multi-Scale Modelling and SafeBatt projects.
Hybrid electrochemical energy storage
Professor Emma Kendrick of the University of Birmingham is leading a project to demonstrate the feasibility of a hybrid battery technology that combines batteries and supercapacitors in a single device, enabling both high power and high energy density. Sustainability considerations will be embedded into their approach from first concept, including use of abundant materials and design for disassembly and recycling. The team will demonstrate this novel concept (i) via a sodium-hybrid battery with mixed battery and supercapacitor material electrodes and (ii) a mixed-ion system with an aluminium-ion and sodium-ion electrolyte.
Supercomputing capable battery data hub for scale and accelerated analysis
The aim of this project, led by Associate Professor Goncalo dos Reis, University of Edinburgh, and including researchers at the University of Oxford, is to deliver a proof of concept, “minimal viable product” for a Battery Data Hub capable of dealing with multi-types of data at scale, from fragmented sources, and with attached supercomputing capabilities. The Hub’s vision is to be a scalable collection of research-ready battery data and a range of server-based computational tools to analyse it with ready access to supercomputing facilities. The Hub will improve the efficiency of scientific discovery in the battery field while supporting access to data by academics and industry.
Read the news release from University of Oxford Department of Engineering Science.
REDOX FLOW BATTERIES
Redox flow batteries (RFBs) are a potentially transformative, low-cost energy storage technology for emerging economies: helping communities with low or no connectivity to have reliable access to energy sources and bringing economic, social and environment benefits to developing countries. Two new projects join two existing ones being led by the Universities of Strathclyde and Southampton, funded by the Transforming Energy Access (TEA) programme, funded by UK Aid from the UK government. TEA is a research and innovation platform supporting the technologies, business models and skills needed to enable an inclusive clean energy transition.
Advanced manufacturing of 3D porous electrodes for redox flow batteries
Dr Ana Jorge Sobrido of Queen Mary University of London will lead a project with UCL and collaborators in Canada to overcome engineering issues that are currently preventing the wide-spread adoption of RFBs. Researchers will combine two flexible, scalable manufacturing methods, 3D printing and electrospinning, to develop an innovative concept of 3D electrodes that will enable optimised mass transport and electrochemical properties, which will be validated by testing a prototype vanadium RFB. The materials developed could also find an application in other battery technologies, fuel cells and electrolysers where engineered electrode structures would have mass transport performance benefits.
Device engineering of zinc-based hybrid microflow batteries and by-product hydrogen collection for emerging economies
Professor Dan Brett of UCL will lead a project with industry partners Bramble Energy and academic collaborators in China, India, Cuba and Pakistan to build on innovations in individual components of zinc-based hybrid microflow batteries. It will develop a novel printed circuit board-based cell/module battery architecture for low-cost and high-manufacturability that will aim to solve issues around the removal of surface bubbles and the collection of by-product hydrogen gas. The project will build and evaluate a bench-scale demonstrator device, accelerating a route to a start-up and potential international investment in this low cost, low toxicity, environmentally benign technology.