The Faraday Institution announced that it will award up to £55 million ($67.1 million) to five UK-based consortia to conduct application-inspired research to make step changes in battery chemistries, systems and manufacturing methods. The ultimate aim of the research is to facilitate improvements in batteries used for transport and other applications such as grid storage with improved performance and cost characteristics.
The new projects in four focus areas join the existing Faraday Institution research projects that collectively aim to deliver the organisation’s mission to accelerate breakthroughs in energy storage technologies to benefit the UK in the global race to electrification. This expanded portfolio has the dual aims of improving current generation lithium ion batteries as well as longer horizon materials discovery and optimisation projects to support the commercialisation of next-generation batteries.
Business Minister, Nadhim Zahawi, said, “Today’s funding backs scientists and innovators to collaborate on projects that will deliver a brighter, cleaner future on our roads. We are committed to ensuring that the UK is at the forefront of developing the battery technologies needed to achieve our aim for all cars and vans to be effectively zero emission by 2040.”
The Faraday Battery Challenge is part of the government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF), overseen by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to help transform the production of batteries for the future of electric vehicles (EVs) in the UK.
Neil Morris, CEO of the Faraday Institution, said, “It is imperative that the UK takes a lead role in increasing the efficiency of energy storage as the world moves towards low carbon economies and seeks to switch to clean methods of energy production. Improvements in EV cost, range and longevity are desired by existing EV owners and those consumers looking to purchase an EV as their next or subsequent car. Our research to improve this web of battery performance indicators (which are different for different sectors) are being researched, with a sense of urgency, by the Faraday Institution and its academic and industrial partners. Our fundamental research programmes are putting the UK at the forefront of this disruptive societal, environmental and economic change.”
UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive, Professor Sir Mark Walport, said, “Bringing together experts across industry and academia, this exciting research will grow our understanding of battery chemistries and manufacturing methods, with the potential to significantly improve the UK’s ability to develop the high-performance electric vehicles of the future.”
The projects, which are expected to run over four years, address battery challenges faced by industry and leverage the UK’s world-class research capabilities to advance scientific knowledge with the aim of commercialising new battery technologies and processes.
The five new projects are:
Next generation electrode manufacturing–Nextrode. The University of Oxford will lead a consortium of five other university and six industry partners to revolutionise the way electrodes for Li-ion batteries are manufactured. By understanding how materials assemble as electrodes are cast, and developing new manufacturing tools, the consortium aims to usher in a new generation of smart, high performance electrodes, which could enable EVs with a longer range and batteries that are more durable. The project’s Principal Investigator is Professor Patrick Grant of the University of Oxford. Other university partners are University of Birmingham, University College London, University of Sheffield, University of Southampton and University of Warwick.
Next generation lithium ion cathode materials. The biggest performance gains to Li-ion batteries are likely to arise from changes to the cathode chemistry. Because the potential research scope and the prizes for success are potentially so significant, and the need to make breakthroughs in this research area is pressing, the Faraday Institution is funding two project consortia.
FutureCat–This project is led by the University of Sheffield with five other university and nine industry partners. It has a coordinated approach to cathode chemistry design, development and discovery (including tailored protective coatings and designer interfaces) to deliver cathodes that hold more charge, that are better suited to withstand prolonged cycling and promote ion mobility (increasing battery durability and range and acceleration of the EV) while reducing the dependency of cell manufacturers on cobalt. The project’s Principal Investigator is Professor Serena Corr of the University of Sheffield. Other academic partners are University of Cambridge, University College London, Lancaster University, University of Oxford and the Science and Technology Facilities Council.
CATMAT–Led by the University of Bath with six other university and 12 industry partners, this project will place considerable emphasis on understanding the fundamental mechanisms at work within novel cathodes that currently prevent the use of nickel-rich cathode materials (with low or no cobalt) and lithium-rich cathodes. The consortium plans to exploit this new knowledge to inform the discovery of novel cathode materials with enhanced properties. It will scale up the synthesis of the most promising new materials and assimilate them into fully integrated battery cells to demonstrate performance. CATMAT will be led by Professor Saiful Islam of the University of Bath. Other academic partners include University of Birmingham, University of Cambridge, University of Liverpool, University of Oxford, University College London and Diamond Light Source.
Next generation sodium ion batteries–NEXGENNA. This project, led by the University of St Andrews, will include five other UK partner laboratories, three industrial partners and collaborations with Diamond Light Source and five leading overseas research institutes. It will accelerate the development of sodium ion battery technology by taking a multi-disciplinary approach incorporating fundamental chemistry right through to considerations for scale-up and cell manufacturing. Its aim is to put on the path to commercialisation a safe sodium ion battery with high performance, low cost and a long cycle life. The relatively low cost of sodium ion batteries makes them an attractive next generation technology, particularly for static energy storage applications and low-cost vehicles. The NEXGENNA project will be led by Professor John Irvine of the University of St Andrews and will have contributions from Lancaster University, University of Cambridge, University College London, University of Sheffield and the Science and Technology Facilities Council.
Alternative cell chemistry beyond lithium ion–LiSTAR, Lithium-Sulfur Technology Accelerator. UCL will lead an effort with six other university partners and seven industrial partners to enable rapid improvements in Li-S technologies by generating new knowledge, materials and engineering solutions, thanks to its dual focus on fundamental research at material and cell level, and an improved approach to system engineering. If the potential of Li-S is realised it would take batteries for automotive and other applications beyond the inherent limitations of Li-ion chemistry: Li-S is one of the most attractive alternative technologies available. The Principal Investigator of this consortia is Professor Paul Shearing of UCL. Other consortia partners are Imperial College London, University of Cambridge, University of Nottingham, University of Oxford, University of Southampton and University of Surrey.
Three of the Faraday Institution’s four existing projects are focused on improving current generation lithium-ion battery chemistry, performance and recyclability. The fourth is seeking to address the scientific barriers facing the commercial realisation of solid-state batteries. These projects were launched early in 2018, totalling £42 million ($51.22 million) and involve over 200 researchers from 20 universities, with their 30+ industrial partners.
The new projects for the first time, include the University of Nottingham and the University of Surrey as consortium partners, further strengthening the Faraday Institution’s network of member universities. The new projects will create nearly 80 new positions for early career researchers, many of whom are expected to move into battery science and engineering from other fields.
The topics for the new research projects were chosen after consultation with industry, academia, local and central government and other stakeholders at workshops held across the UK in 2018. Industry partners will work closely with university researchers for the duration of the projects. This collaboration will ensure that the research produces findings and solutions that meet the needs of the UK’s businesses. The 32 industrial partners involved in the projects have pledged a total of £4.4 million ($5.37 million) in in-kind support. The terms of the awards are currently being finalised.