Developing the next generation of batteries

Researchers at the University of Liverpool are harnessing their battery expertise and knowledge to help answer the Industrial Strategy’s Faraday Battery Challenge.

The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF), which brings together leading research and business to tackle the big societal and industrial challenges today, is designed to harness areas of expertise in which the UK is already a knowledge leader.

Leading the Liverpool charge are Professor Nigel Browning, Director of the Albert Crewe Microscopy Centre at Liverpool and Professor Laurence Hardwick, Director of the Stephenson Institute for Renewable Energy, who along with colleagues are involved in five different projects as part of this challenge, which aims to develop the next generation of batteries for vehicles and other applications.

Professor Nigel Browning said: “The University is in a strong position to help answer this challenge, as we’ve a unique combination of strengths in battery expertise, including characterisation, materials discovery and synthesis, alongside state of the art facilities such as the Materials Innovation Factory and the Albert Crewe Centre.”

Identifying opportunities

Nigel Browning and Laurence Hardwick were commissioned by The Faraday Institution to undertake a scoping study.  The recommendations from the report, entitled ‘Identifying Infrastructure and Collaborative Expertise for Electrochemical Energy Storage Applications’, are a foundation of the Faraday Battery Challenge, aiming to ignite a revolution in battery research and accelerate the move to electric vehicles.

Professor Nigel Browning said: “By coordinating researchers together in the characterisation of energy storage systems, the Faraday Institution has a tremendous opportunity to establish unique expertise in the UK and accelerate the insights needed to innovate world-leading devices.”

The scoping study has led to a £1m multi-institutional Faraday project ‘Quantitative Imaging of Multi-Scale Dynamic Phenomena at Electrochemical Interfaces’, which includes novel electron microscopy developments by Nigel Browning and Dr B. Layla Mehdi and vibrational spectroscopy by Laurence Hardwick and Dr Alex Cowan, along with collaborators from the University of Birmingham, Manchester, Warwick and Bath.

UK research hubs

The University is a partner in three of four UK research hubs as part of the Faraday Battery Challenge, reflecting its position as one of the leading UK institutions for interdisciplinary energy storage research, in particular in the field of battery technologies.

Sustainable batteries

The ‘Recycling of Lithium Ion Batteries’ (ReLiB) project led by the University of Birmingham, will determine the ways in which spent lithium batteries can be recycled.

ReLiB aims to facilitate a circular economy in lithium ion batteries, tackling the most demanding technical and socio-economic challenges in sensing, gateway testing, sorting, re-use and recycling, to make better use of global resources and ultimately increase the impact of batteries in improving air quality and decarbonisation.

Nigel Browning and researchers from the University’s School of Engineering will bring their materials characterisation expertise to this project.

Lithium batteries for electric vehicles

The University’s Stephenson Institute for Renewable Energy is part of a new research consortium that has been awarded £11.2 million by the Faraday Institution to explore and develop new materials for next-generation lithium batteries that can be used for electric vehicles.

The research aims to deliver improvements in the cost, performance and range of batteries used in electric vehicles, helping pave the way for zero emission transport.

Professor Laurence Hardwick said: “The Stephenson Institute for Renewable Energy will be providing its expertise in battery material testing and advanced ex situ and operando characterisation to this project and we look forward to collaborating with other university and academic partners.”

Safer batteries

A solid state battery project is aiming to discover new solid state electrolytes for batteries. Chemists Professor Matthew Rosseinsky, Dr John Claridge and Dr Matthew Dyer are working to discover new materials for this purpose, while Professor Laurence Hardwick will characterise the interfaces within these batteries, which in principle should be much safer than liquid electrolytes which are flammable.

They will also test the feasibility of a solid state battery with performance superior to Lithium ion in electric vehicle applications. It will consider the barriers that are preventing the progression to market of solid-state batteries.

Extending battery life

As part of the ISCF Faraday Battery Challenge grant ‘Extending battery life,’ the University’s researchers are working in partnership with the STFC’s Central Laser Facility. They are using Kerr-gated Raman spectroscopy to understand the battery degradation process in the hope of increased lifetime and better prediction of failure.

In addition, Layla Mehdi and Laurence Hardwick are working to understand the degradation mechanisms that limit battery life through their work with the Degradation Hub.

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