Faraday Institution refocuses six existing battery research projects for maximum impact
The Faraday Institution, a specialist in energy storage research, has announced a £29 million investment in six key battery research projects aimed at delivering commercial impact.
These existing projects on extending battery life, battery modelling, recycling and reuse, safety, solid-state batteries, and lithium-sulphur batteries have been reshaped to focus on the areas with the greatest potential for success.
With over 500 researchers from 27 universities and 85+ industry partners, the Faraday Institution continues to drive innovation in energy storage technologies that will transform the UK energy landscape from transportation to the grid.
Professor Pam Thomas, CEO, Faraday Institution, commented: “The Faraday Institution is committed to identifying and investing in the most promising and impactful battery research initiatives. This project refocusing is an important part of that process and allows us to direct even more effort towards those areas of research that offer the maximum potential of delivering societal, environmental, and commercial impact.”
Business and Trade Minister Nusrat Ghani said: “Growing the battery industry is vital to positioning the UK as the best location in the world to manufacture electric vehicles.
“This funding will help businesses become more innovative and productive, helping to create more skilled, high-wage jobs across the UK, future-proofing our economy and supporting our ambition towards a cleaner, greener future.”
As part of this project refocusing and its ongoing efforts to drive impact in energy storage research, the Faraday Institution recently issued an open call for short, costed proposals for new research topics with tightly defined scopes that complement its core research projects. The list of successful applicants can be found on the Faraday website, and new research areas have been integrated into the projects. The round was highly competitive with 62 proposals submitted.
James Gaade, Research Programme Director commented: “We congratulate the co-investigators who were successful in bidding in the competitive process. They are from 10 universities, three of which – Cranfield, Bristol and King’s College London – are new to Faraday Institution core projects. We particularly congratulate Newcastle University who will lead three new work areas in the SOLBAT, ReLiB and Degradation projects.”
The funding for these projects came from the Faraday Battery Challenge, delivered by Innovate UK for UK Research and Innovation.
The refocused research projects, including targeting market opportunities and early-stage commercial development, are in the following areas:
Extending battery life
The Faraday Institution’s Degradation project, a centre of excellence in understanding degradation mechanisms in lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide NMC811-graphite batteries, is expanding to investigate other systems of industrial interest.
Researchers will apply their knowledge and new characterisation techniques to investigate the degradation of systems comprising silicon-rich composites and those using anode-free architectures.
On the cathode side, the project will investigate the higher nickel content NMC, lithium manganese iron phosphate (LMFP), and tungsten-doped lithium nickel oxide (LNO). Tungsten-doped LNO is a promising material with high capacity that was developed by the Faraday Institution’s FutureCat project. Researchers will also investigate new electrolyte formulations compatible with the anode and cathodes under study and their impact on degradation.
The project will also include new pouch cell fabrication activity at WMG, which will allow researchers from across the project to access reproducible and reliable cells to perform degradation studies at more industrial-relevant scales. Pouch cells to be fabricated will include tungsten-doped LNO cathode developed at the University of Sheffield.
The project is led by Co-Principal Investigators Prof Dame Clare Grey, University of Cambridge, and Prof Louis Piper of WMG. The team also includes researchers from the universities of Birmingham, Newcastle, Oxford, Sheffield, Southampton, Imperial College London and UCL.
The Multi-scale Modelling project has been refocused to further develop parameterisation methods and techniques for next-generation models and modelling of batteries beyond lithium-ion.
Researchers will focus on methods to determine accurate input parameters for models that define ageing and that accurately represent what happens at battery interfaces, which could support the growth of the Battery Parameterisation eXchange (BPX) standard being formed by the Faraday Institution.
Additionally, the project aims to grow the capabilities of PyBaMM, an open-source physics-based model, to enable better health and performance prediction at cell and pack level, linking to commercial software, and growing the PyBaMM community.
The project will also develop ‘PRISM’, an industry-focused equivalent circuit model framework integrated with and complementary to PyBaMM, which will incorporate machine learning approaches.
The project is led by Prof Gregory Offer, Imperial College London, with additional researchers from the universities of Birmingham, Bristol, Oxford, Portsmouth, Southampton and Warwick.
Recycling and reuse (ReLiB)
The ReLiB project will develop, improve, and scale recycling technologies and transition them to industry. The project is developing cutting-edge diagnostic and decision-making methodologies (linking to battery passports) to optimise and automate pack handling logistics that will enable autonomous decision making at end of first life to recycle or reuse in a second-life application such as on the grid.
The project’s aim is to improve current industry practices to beyond 90% efficiency and add value through improved purity of recovered materials and re-engineer them to new uses. Researchers will continue to explore processes to recover valuable and non-valuable materials from waste streams via novel electrode extraction, delamination, binder recovery, leaching, electrolyte recovery and regeneration, and biological recovery techniques, in many cases proving processes at larger scale than previously achieved.
Led by Prof Paul Anderson, University of Birmingham, ReLiB also draws on the expertise of researchers at the universities of Edinburgh, Imperial College London, Leicester, Newcastle and UCL.
Battery safety (SafeBatt)
SafeBatt is investigating the science behind cell and battery failure using advanced instrumentation, imaging, and high-speed techniques to characterise failure modes and investigate the interplay between cell ageing, degradation, and safety.
Cell-to-cell failure propagation is being studied and detection methods and mitigation strategies to prevent thermal runaway and propagation are being developed and demonstrated. A model that can predict thermal runaway and simulates the external flow of gas, heat, and ejecta during failure will be developed, informing the design of safer battery systems.
The project will also conduct tests in larger format cells and at module level to help industry and other stakeholders understand how EV and micro-mobility battery packs and static energy storage systems fail in real-world scenarios. This builds on previous research that identified a potentially explosive vapour cloud, observed under certain conditions of lithium-ion cell failure.
This research will continue to inform the project’s international dissemination activities (where SafeBatt researchers are playing a leadership role globally) and provide a central point of access for industry, government bodies, and fire services seeking knowledge and engagement on lithium-ion battery safety related issues.
Francesco Restuccia, Lecturer in Engineering at King’s College London said of the funding: “It is fantastic that the UK, via the Faraday Institution, has invested so much in the SAfeBatt project to keep batteries safe, and delve deep into the environmental consequences of their failure. When so much of the journey to net-zero and energy resilience depend on energy storage technology, this is an incredibly important step not just for us engineers at King's College London, but the UK as a whole.
“We hope that by including modelling fire dynamics aspects, to understand and predict the consequence of battery failure and the spike in heat output of flaming cells, fire science and fire engineering techniques can shed light on the thermal runaway so destructive to battery cells.”
Led by Prof Paul Shearing of UCL, SafeBatt also includes researchers from the universities of Cambridge, King’s College London, Newcastle, Sheffield and Warwick.
Solid-state batteries (SOLBAT)
SOLBAT will continue to focus on developing a deep understanding of the materials properties and mechanisms behind the premature short-circuiting and failure of solid-state batteries, a crucial step towards avoiding such events and realising the commercial potential of this technology.
The project will focus on the key areas of the solid-state system, namely the anode, cathode, and electrolyte. On the anode side, the project will investigate use of lithium-metal alloys, the nature of the anode/electrolyte interface and the use of ‘lithium-less’ solid-state batteries as ways to increase critical current densities, improve cycling performance, reduce manufacturing cost, and prevent cell failure by managing dendrite growth and void formation. On the cathode front, researchers will continue to study the use of polymers as a coating between the solid electrolyte and cathode active particles as a promising way to minimise volumetric changes and reduce cell operating pressures.
Additionally, the project will focus on mitigating the growth of dendrites by controlling the microstructure and mechanical properties of the solid electrolyte separator, whilst also reducing its thickness towards commercially relevant values. A further focus area will be characterisation and modelling, which will help to enrich the understanding of the materials and decipher the mechanisms driving the performances and failures.
Prof Mauro Pasta, University of Oxford, will be taking the position of Principal Investigator of SOLBAT. Prof Sir Peter Bruce will continue to be involved in the project as a work package leader. The project also includes researchers from Newcastle University and Diamond Light Source.
Lithium-sulfur batteries (LiSTAR)
The refocused LiSTAR project will place increased emphasis on the development and validation of lithium-sulfur (Li-S) pouch cells using the most promising anode, cathode, and electrolyte components previously tested individually at a coin cell level.
The project will continue to improve the performance of individual cell components, but with a narrowed focus on maximising the energy density and lifetime of cells using the best performing materials identified in the project’s first phase.
The project will also work on the development of cathode architectures and investigate the cathode/electrolyte interfaces of quasi-solid-state Li-S technology with the aim of improving cycle life, in a complementary research area to the industry sprint project with OXLiD.
Additionally, the project will work on developing a solid-state composite cathode for an all-solid-state Li-S battery, as well as consolidating the suite of dedicated diagnostic and characterisation tools for understanding Li-S performance.
A new addition to the project is research at the system level; a battery management system suitable for Li-S technology will be developed, with a focus on early applications like aerospace and weight critical propulsion.
LiSTAR is led by Prof Paul Sheering of UCL, with additional researchers from the universities of Birmingham, Cambridge, Coventry, Cranfield, Imperial College London, Nottingham, Oxford, Southampton and Surrey.
Research in these six areas will progress over the next two years to 31st March 2025.
The reshaping of the projects was a thorough process that involved revision of the scope of existing research areas, an open call for proposals in new research areas and input from senior researchers, the Faraday Institution’s expert panel, and a panel of internationally recognised independent experts from academia and industry. The focus was on how to enhance the UK’s position in electrochemical energy storage research and make UK industry more competitive, building on the progress made over the past five years.
Additionally, the Faraday Institution research programme includes four other large, coordinated research projects on next generation cathode materials, electrode manufacturing, and sodium-ion batteries, which are undergoing a similar refocusing process and the outcome of which will be announced in the autumn of 2023.