Accelerating the drive towards electric vehicles requires a substantial change in lithium-ion battery technology. The next generation of Li-ion batteries must have longer lifespans and increased energy density to increase the range of electric vehicles. The biggest performance gains are likely to arise from changes to the cathode chemistry. And crucially – because of the cost, sustainability and ethical concerns surrounding cobalt – battery technology must be based around alternatives to the traditional cobalt containing cathodes.
Overcoming the significant scientific and commercial challenges to reaching these goals will require better cathode design, new materials and a deeper understanding. The prizes for doing so are both significant and could be realised in commercial products in the relatively near-term.
Some of the areas of research that FutureCat is particularly investigating are materials with controlled or ordered structures (that enable use of otherwise unstable materials, provide mechanical stability, increase battery durability or open new pathways for development) and synthesis methods that may be a route to new materials through inexpensive processes (reducing battery prices).
Milestones (to September 2023):
With industry partners, the FutureCat project has set ambitious targets to make fundamental breakthroughs that would put on the path to commercialisation a battery with significant improvements to energy and power density, cost and first life. For example, it is targeting nearly doubling the theoretically possible power density (at pack level) by 2023, through researching high voltage lithium nickel manganese spinels and their dopant counterparts (e.g. Cu, Fe ions), novel additives, coatings and designer interfaces to promote fast ion conduction in the protected electrode. The FutureCat team will concentrate on scalable materials and methods, smoothing the path from laboratory to manufacturing and keeping in mind lean manufacturing techniques to cut manufacturing costs once commercialised.
List of partners:
Professor Serena Corr, University of Sheffield