The Faraday Institution awarded a total of £2 million to three UK-based consortia in July 2019 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).
The projects will enhance the ability of UK researchers to see deep inside batteries while operating in real time. It is anticipated that these new tools will help UK researchers develop next-generation batteries, as the country works to electrify the automotive sector and decarbonise transport.
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 is defining 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 Oxford with the University of Manchester and Diamond Light Source and contributions from eight other partners, is developing 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.
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.
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.