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Three projects awarded to create new tools for battery researchers at leading UK facilities
HARWELL, UK (15 August 2019) The ability of UK researchers to see deep inside batteries while operating in real time will be greatly enhanced through a series of awards announced by the Faraday Institution today. Three UK-based consortia will receive a total of £2 million to develop battery-focused characterisation and analytical techniques to provide UK battery researchers with world-leading tools to accelerate the development of their understanding of battery materials and enable scientific breakthroughs that will ultimately improve the performance of electric vehicles (EVs).
These technical advances will help UK researchers develop next-generation batteries, as the UK works to electrify the automotive sector and decarbonise transport.
“The next generation of batteries will be achieved through a better understanding of the mechanisms and reactions occurring within them, which would allow researchers to design batteries with better materials that give improved performance, such as extending battery life and increasing storage capacity to hold more energy, extending the range of EVs,” commented the Faraday Institution’s Chief Executive Officer, Neil Morris.
Characterisation, in materials science, refers to the range of processes by which a material’s structure and properties are measured. These processes, which include techniques like microscopy, diffraction and spectroscopy, allow researchers to understand a material’s basic structure and properties in order to then improve its function.
The following new projects target advanced technique development across small, medium and large-scale user facilities to support structural and mechanistic understanding of a wide range of battery chemistries, not limited to those currently being investigated by the Faraday Institution.
Imaging Dynamic Electrochemical Interfaces
Led by the University of Liverpool with five other universities and five additional partners, this project will define a framework that can connect state-of-the-art imaging and analytical methods across the different length and time scales important to battery research, in a coherent way to understand how a battery works. Machine learning will play a key role in the project. Success will provide researchers with a clear view of how altering the structure, shape and chemistry of a battery material leads to a change in battery function and a potential improvement in performance.
The Development of High-resolution Optical Microscopies to Evaluate Structural Transformations and Dynamics in Battery Electrodes
Composed of researchers from three departments at the University of Cambridge, this project will build upon recent breakthroughs in characterisation methods developed for semiconducting materials to provide a greater understanding of how electrode materials function at the single particle level and at shorter timescales than is currently available. Methods developed during this project will tackle crucial questions, such as how fast lithium-ions move, how the crystal structure of electrodes change, and what are the obstacles for ion transport at a microscopic scale? These world-leading methods will allow the research community to examine battery materials in order to develop the next generation of high-performance materials.
What Lies Beneath? Probing Buried Interfaces in Working Batteries
This project, led by the University of Manchester with Diamond Light Source and contributions from eight other partners, will develop a novel platform that enables the exploration of changes at interfaces deep within a battery while it is charging and discharging. It will also develop a technique to preserve surfaces after a battery has been disassembled for further research.
Technique development will take advantage of newly available experimental capabilities at Diamond Light Source and the Henry Royce Institute. For the first time researchers will be able to examine the same battery sample using three key interface-sensitive characterisation techniques, allowing direct correlation of the complementary information they provide.
These three characterisation projects will support the Faraday Institution’s existing multi-disciplinary research projects that collectively aim to deliver fundamental scientific research to benefit the UK in the global race to electrification. These projects--to enhance battery life, develop multi-scale models of battery behaviour, define recycling and reuse strategies, and overcome the barriers preventing the commercialisation of solid-state batteries--will be joined by additional projects later in 2019.
Another goal of the characterisation projects will be to promote widespread access to the new ground-breaking capabilities to battery researchers working on other Faraday Institution projects, elsewhere in the UK, and internationally. “As with our other research programmes, our long-term objective is to deliver improvements in EV cost, range, performance and longevity that consumers are demanding,” continued Neil Morris.
These characterisation projects build upon the recommendations of a study of scientific facilities available in the UK (“Identifying Infrastructure and Collaborative Expertise for Electrochemical Energy Storage Application,” Nigel D Browning and Laurence J Hardwick) and by engaging the academic community. The projects, which will be completed by March 2021, were selected by the Faraday Institution after a review by an independent panel of experts.
For more information on the Faraday Institution, visit faraday.ac.uk and follow @FaradayInst on Twitter.
Notes to Editors
Powering Britain’s battery revolution, the Faraday Institution is the UK’s independent institute for electrochemical energy storage science and technology, supporting research, training, and analysis. Bringing together expertise from universities and industry, the Faraday Institution endeavours to make the UK the go-to place for the research and development of the manufacture and production of new electrical storage technologies for both the automotive and wider relevant sectors.
The first phase of the Faraday Institution is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) as part of UK Research and Innovation through the government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF). Headquartered at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus, the Faraday Institution is a registered charity with an independent board of trustees.
The ISCF Faraday Battery Challenge is to develop and manufacture batteries for the electrification of vehicles – £274 million over four years – to help UK businesses seize the opportunities presented by the move to a low carbon economy. The challenge is split into three elements: research, innovation, and scale-up.
The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government.
EPSRC is the main funding body for engineering and physical sciences research in the UK. By investing in research and postgraduate training, we are building the knowledge and skills base needed to address the scientific and technological challenges facing the nation.
Our portfolio covers a vast range of fields from healthcare technologies to structural engineering, manufacturing to mathematics, advanced materials to chemistry. The research we fund has impact across all sectors. It provides a platform for future UK prosperity by contributing to a healthy, connected, resilient, productive nation.
Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund: The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund aims to bring together the UK’s world leading research with business to meet the major industrial and societal challenges of our time. The fund was created to provide funding and support to UK businesses and researchers, part of the government’s £4.7 billion increase in research and development over the next 4 years. It was designed to ensure that research and innovation takes centre stage in the Government’s modern Industrial Strategy. It is run by UK Research and Innovation.
UK Research and Innovation is a new body which works in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities, and government to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish. We aim to maximise the contribution of each of our component parts, working individually and collectively. We work with our many partners to benefit everyone through knowledge, talent and ideas.
Operating across the whole of the UK with a combined budget of more than £6 billion, UK Research and Innovation brings together the seven Research Councils, Innovate UK and a new organisation, Research England.