Today, all electrodes for mass market lithium-ion batteries are made by slurry casting. The process involves mixing electrochemically active materials, additives and binders, and produces electrodes with randomly distributed pores and materials, in what is a quick and productive process. However, recent research at the laboratory scale has demonstrated that new manufacturing methods can produce “smart” electrodes with 30% more capacity and 50% lower degradation rates, which could enable EVs with longer range and batteries that are more durable. Even bigger benefits could be achieved once more is understood about the science of smart electrodes and how to scale up production for industry. The Nextrode project has been formed to do just that – to research new methods for manufacturing smarter electrodes and to put them onto the path to commercialisation.
The Nextrode consortium will address a range of crucial scientific and industrial challenges. It will investigate what happens to constituent materials as electrodes are formed, and how this can be controlled; it will be a test bed for radical new manufacturing methods; and it will pioneer new ways, based on data science, to translate small-volume, lab-scale manufacturing into high-volume environments.
The project insights will be transferred directly to existing manufacturers across many sectors, from car and off-road vehicles to aerospace and marine, who continue to push for breakthroughs in performance and cost to enable greater electrification.
Milestones (to September 2023):
Two of the three UK-based organisations involved in R&D/niche volume electrode manufacturing, together with UKBIC (that will deliver Europe’s first large scale prove-out facility), and the UK’s largest cell assembler, are contributing partners to Nextrode. These organisations, along with other partners that are major players in the materials supply chain and the automotive industry, will focus the project developments for the most significant industrial impact (at a low volume/niche through to gigafactory scale), including at UKBIC. They will take an active role in discovery exploitation and dissemination. Where distinct and protectable research breakthroughs occur, the project will secure intellectual property and look for opportunities to form spin-out companies.
List of partners:
Professor Patrick Grant, University of Oxford