News from around the projects – April 2020

Industry sprint – Cell abuse, off gas species and detonation behaviour

UCL are collaborating with an industrial partner in an “industry sprint” to analyse thermal runaway behaviour of cells. An accurate understanding of the failure mechanisms of commercially available cells is vital to robust pack design. By combining multiple techniques to describe the mechanism of failure, gases produced during an event, energy/mass released, and any geometric changes, models will begin to be built that will enable faster, more efficient pack development processes. Calorimetry combined with mass spectrometry are providing details on the mechanism of failure, heat release and resulting gas composition under a range of conditions. X-ray tomography and mathematical models show internal structural differences after failure. Using high speed X-ray radiography, it is possible to capture high speed video during failure.

This research was recently used as an example of the impact the Faraday Institution is making at an event attended by officials from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund and Portfolio Management Office as well as senior representatives from UKRI.


The LiSTAR baselining work began in the middle of March with the initial characterisation of standardised Li-S materials and cell performance. We are also in the middle of the first of our development cycles for new materials. Work at Cambridge, Imperial, Surrey and UCL has already identified a number of promising candidate materials synthesised with physical and electrochemical characterisation ongoing. Recent research at Southampton and Nottingham have pointed towards methods for reducing the production time of electrolytes while we have seen promising results regarding improved rate performance through initial analysis of electrolyte additives. Optimisation of modelling work is continuing apace with recent improvements in 1D modelling enabling more robust examination of Li-S cell performance. Our efforts to improve the design and engineering of the cell (at this stage conducted at Oxford and UCL) have begun with the commissioning and validation of a number of testing rigs to identify, at this early stage in the chemistries commercialisation, bespoke tests to ensure the robustness of the technology and provide novel diagnostic pathways at cell level and beyond.

Throughout the shutdown we will host a weekly virtual journal club with the aims of maximising PDRA/PhD engagement with the current state of the art, maintaining discussions and providing insights into non-work package specific research (to promote cross WP collaboration). We are working with the Institute of Physics to produce a Li-S roadmap topical review; a collection of short reviews, which provide a forward-looking review detailing a series of research questions/topics. This roadmap will provide excellent publicity opportunities for both LiSTAR and the Faraday Institution while also enabling Co-Is/PDRAs to consolidate collective knowledge in one place. We are encouraging researchers to conduct co-ordinated literature reviews within their respective Work Packages focusing on specific areas with a view to future publication and are formalising standard operating procedures (e.g. coin cell assembly, the storage of materials and electrode preparation etc.). Longer term, we are organising online masterclasses and seminars delivered by Co-I’s and senior PDRAs to upskill the research cohort and promote collaborative efforts.


In February, NEXGENNA held an International Symposium on the State-of-the-Art in Sodium-Ion Batteries. Lancaster University hosted 65 delegates drawn from academia and industry. The programme included leading lights from NEXGENNA and across Europe. They presented current ideas in electrode materials, interfaces, electrolytes and electrochemical testing protocols. The symposium explored polyanionic materials, layered transition metal oxides, disordered perovskites, alloys and carbonaceous materials. Faradion, the world leader in non-aqueous sodium-ion batteries, provided an industrial perspective. Their Chief Technology Officer, Prof Jerry Barker spoke on industry benchmarks and best practice. The event served to bring together the NEXGENNA team to embed our project in world-leading science.

Speakers included; Prof Marek Marcinek (Warsaw), Dr Laurence Croguennec (Bordeaux), Dr Laure Monconduit (Montpellier), Prof Lorenzo Stievano (Montpellier), Dr Nuria Tapia Ruiz (Lancaster), Dr Alexandre Ponrouch (Barcelona), Dr Reza Younesi (Uppsala), Prof Jerry Barker (Faradion), Montse Galceran (CIC Energigune), Prof Clare Grey (Cambridge), Dr Eddie Cussen (Sheffield) and Dr Robert Armstrong (St Andrews).

International speakers Prof Lorenzo Stievano (Institut Charles Gerhardt, Montpellier), Dr Alexandre Ponrouch (ICMAB, Barcelona) and Dr Laurence Croguennec (ICMCB, Bordeaux) enjoying a networking session.


As Nextrode is predominantly an experimental project, the closure of university laboratories has meant that we have had to focus on other work that can be done without access to the laboratory. This involves a range of tasks including data analysis, literature reviews, experimental design, online training, drafting standard operating procedures, continuing with procurement of equipment, developing the website and online training. The modelling aspect of Nextrode is continuing more or less as planned.

We are reviewing our project plan to identify what tasks will be delayed and what can be brought forward to minimise the impact of the shutdown as much as possible. Prior to the shutdown, we were making good progress in manufacturing our baseline electrodes and these are ready to distribute to partners as soon as we are able.


The FutureCat project has begun to welcome its new PDRAs across each of its university partners. Researchers have begun synthetic work as well as completing beamtime experiments, with a number of new cathode materials under investigation.

At the start of March, the project hosted a very successful one day symposium on the Advanced Characterisation of Battery Materials. This event was held at Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane stadium with contributions from Prof Serena Corr and Dr Nik Reeves-McLaren from the University of Sheffield, Dr Karen Johnston from the University of Durham, Dr Helen Playford from STFC, Dr Alex Walton from the University of Manchester and Dr Stephen Parry from the Faraday Institution. The meeting was well attended by a mixture of industrial delegates, students and academics. The event brought together researchers from outside of the Faraday Institution projects as well as a number of people already involved on Faraday projects to further expand the dialogue within the UK battery network.

A number of the projects noted National Battery Day (18th Feb) with social media posts. The University of Sheffield tweeted an explainer animation on how its scientists and engineers are working towards a more sustainable and reliable battery powered future, including work in Serena Corr’s group.


It's good to see the CATMAT website go live.


ReLiB’s researcher Gavin Harper was paired with the Rt Hon Liz Saville Roberts for a week of work shadowing in Westminster including a behind the scenes insight into how policy is formed and how research can be used to make evidence-based decisions.

As mentioned in the previous newsletter, the Faraday Institution would like to empower all researchers to post news items and events and pose questions on discussion boards etc. Each month, any researcher who posts any such item on Communifire will be put into a draw to win a £10 Costa Coffee voucher. We were pleased to send ReLiB’s Peter Slater a Costa Coffee voucher in February.


The SOLBAT team have all been taking precautionary measures in association with the covid-19 outbreak. Experiments are being wound down or halted wherever possible and labs are being maintained with minimal personal contact. The team are taking this time to analyse collected data and write up papers. We are continuing with our weekly science forum (remotely) to ensure the team stay connected and information is shared regarding individual’s scientific progress and reviews of relevant literature.

Posted on April 1, 2020 in Uncategorized

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About the Author

Louise Gould is a marketing and communications professional who has centred her career around technology-based organisations. She joined the Faraday Institution after 5 years as Marketing Communications Manager at the renewable fuels company Velocys. View her biography here


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