· Nextrode project could revolutionise the way electrodes for Li-ion EV batteries are manufactured
· Smart high performance electrodes could enable EVs to travel further and be more durable
· WMG at the University of Warwick will research and model new and existing manufacturing processes to unlock full potential of electrochemical materials in cells
The Faraday Institution funded “Nextrode” project, involving WMG at the University of Warwick, will research ways to make electrodes for Li-ion batteries which unlock the electrochemical potential of their ingredients.
WMG, at the University of Warwick, is one of six university partners in the Nextrode project, which is led by the University of Oxford, alongside six industry partners – including the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre (UKBIC) who will be researching how to make electrodes for Li-ion Electric Vehicle batteries more efficiently.
Today’s Li-ion batteries are made using a “slurry casting” process, whereby the active materials are mixed in a wet slurry and coated onto thin foils of aluminium or copper, then dried and compressed. This process is highly effective for mass production, but is developed empirically through trial and error, at great cost to the manufacturer
In this project, WMG will gain greater depth of knowledge in that process with a view to being able to predictively model and optimise it, so that future electrodes can be cheaper, store more energy, and get to market faster. To do this, WMG will use their state-of-the-art “battery scale up” facility, as well as taking data from the UKBIC when it opens next year.
Furthermore, slurry cast electrodes limit the performance of the battery as the active electrochemical materials are uniformly distributed throughout the electrode structure. Research has shown that arranging the materials in a structured way can dramatically improve battery performance, but at present there is no mass-manufacturing route to do so. This project will investigate new manufacturing methods to create structured electrodes in a cost effective way at high manufacturing volumes.
Professor David Greenwood from WMG, University of Warwick comments:
“Battery manufacturing is a critical industry for the UK to grow. It is highly competitive, and to win, we will need excellence in both science and manufacturing. The Nextrode project brings these two elements together to make future Li-ion batteries for Electric vehicles more energy efficient and affordable. Our unique research facilities are key to acquiring the knowledge required to deliver a step change in industrial capability.”
Professor Patrick Grant from Oxford University who will lead project comments:
“Nextrode aims to strengthen the scientific understanding of existing electrode manufacturing so we can make it more flexible and extract further performance gains, but we will also develop a new generation of manufacturing approaches for ‘smart” electrodes where the different electrode materials are arranged with greater precision and provide even greater performance benefits. We anticipate these benefits could be realised for almost any type of battery chemistry”.
This project is just one of five that the Faraday Institution has announced today, 4th September. In total, it will award up to £55 million to five UK-based consortia to conduct application-inspired research over the next four years to make step changes in the understanding of battery chemistries, systems and manufacturing methods.
Business Minister, Nadhim Zahawi comments:
“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.”
Neil Morris, CEO of the Faraday Institution comments:
“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, comments:
“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.