Energy Storage Electrode Manufacturing (ELEMENT)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Warwick
Department Name: WMG


This EPSRC First Grant project will concentrate on the use of so-called 'Electrophoretic Deposition (EPD)' to manufacture energy storage electrodes with spatially distributed properties; in order to further advance the performance of electrochemical power devices. The research is aimed at realising a full capacity utilisation while meeting all relevant power extractions. This will be achieved by developing new electrode designs, manufacture them at a meaningful scale, microstructural characterisation and energy storage measurement. Electrodes built in this way will have their energy storage functions met more rationally than conventional monolithic design. Whilst in-depth investigation of materials chemistry is beyond the scope of this manufacturing centred project, the research will perform exemplary experiments involving Nb2O5 and C, in Li-ion battery context. The improved electrodes will be designed, manufactured and validated in the UK's first full battery prototyping lines in a non-commercial environment at the WMG Energy Innovation Centre.

Specifically, this project directly challenges the existing manufacturing paradigm in which electrode designs are driven by outdated manufacturing considerations, such as the casting and calendaring of powder-based viscous slurry. The existing technologies, which are clearly scalable and robust, dominate today's electrode manufacturing for batteries and supercapacitors devices. But, the manufacturing approach greatly limit the 'usable' energy density (Wh/kg) and 'usable' capacity (Ah) at device cell level and creates an undesirable viscous circle. This is because calendaring powder-based electrodes for high fraction of active materials results in pore networks with high tortuosity, filled with undesirable quantity of inactive materials such as polymeric binders and electrical conductivity enhancer carbon black particles. In this context, the electrodes must then be thin for high rate. But, thin electrodes result in high fraction of inactive materials; which consequently lowers the maximum achievable 'usable' energy density and 'usable' capacity. A real-world need therefore persists to expand our knowledge about realising high density active material electrodes, whilst having low pore tortuosity and of adequate electrical conductivity, but is less affected by the demanding manufacturing requirements and engineering constraints.

The proposed EPD approach is sufficiently generic that it can be applied for any energy storage materials and their chemistries, and the developed tools, processes and methodologies are common across scale can be of direct relevance for systematic optimisation of any existing Li-ion batteries, beyond Li-ion chemistries (e.g., Na-ion, Mg-ion) and higher energy density electrochemical capacitors (based on metal oxides).

In short, this project will explore a new direction: the scientific challenges and technological opportunities enabled by the design of 'high density active material electrodes of spatially distributed properties' through modern approaches in electrochemical manufacturing. The project outcomes are expected to impact scientific understandings of how charged materials and electric field interact, and will create improved electrode designs for future energy storage.

Planned Impact

This project has been designed with impact at the core. It is about future-proofing a more modern step-change approach in the design and manufacture of energy storage electrodes, specifically targeting improved energy storage. The project outcomes are expected to bring a series of impacts to the academic community and industry in general, especially targeting UK manufacturing sectors.

Research Team
This project will aid the PI's academic development as an independent researcher working in the field of energy storage. Specifically, this project will enable him to explore and innovate the technology of EPD for the production of energy storage electrodes. Through developing processes and manufacturing methodologies that are compatible with industry, the PI and one postdoctoral researcher will benefit from working on a leading project with opportunities aiding their career progression. This will accelerate their developments in shaping manufacturing research capability in the UK, and allow them to develop leadership capacity by interacting with relevant colleagues, especially those involved in energy storage manufacturing research.

Because this project focuses on manufacturing research at a meaningful scale, especially generating knowledge in the manufacturing science of EPD, it will lead the research team to establishing a knowledge platform for UK industry to exploit the developed tools, processes and methodologies. This means industry will have the relevant evidence to take the next steps forward into making viable high value added energy storage electrodes. Hence, this project is highly timely to high value manufacturing in the UK, especially driving forward the science and innovation in EPD technology for the competitive yet high economic prize energy storage market. Because this project aligns directly with 'Productive Nation' pillar of the EPSRC's Delivery Plan 2016/17-2019/20, it will contribute to enabling a strategic direction supporting the UK's long term aspiration for manufacturing industry that is built upon a 'make it local, make it bespoke' approach.

With market forecasts around $46 billion worldwide for Li-ion batteries from 2016-22 (Allied Market Research 2016) and $7 billion for supercapacitor from 2015-23 (Transparency Market Research 2016), this project can contribute to these economic opportunities by interacting with UK manufacturing companies (largely high technologies businesses) from the outset of this project. Since 2015/2016, the PI have developed active interactions with two key SMEs relevant to this project (DZP Technologies Ltd. and LVH Coatings Ltd.) through several Innovate UK technology development programmes. The Support Letters from these companies showed that this project would be relevant for them, and offer a clear platform for realising any potential economic benefits. The Support Letters from WMG, The UK Institute of Materials Finishing and WMG centre HVM Catapult have also indicated that this project overlaps strategically with some of their core research themes; especially relevant to their members in addressing key manufacturing challenges faced by the energy storage industry.


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Description This is an active project, but we have discovered that our innovation in electrophoretic deposition (EPD) can enable us to realise the production of higher density active material (< 90 wt.%) electrodes as compare to state-of-the-art electrodes available in industry today. To further demonstrate our advancement for real-world applications e.g. automotive energy storage, we showed that very thick layer of deposited active material (i.e. several tens to hundreds of micron layer thickness) can be readily achieve by controlling the operating parameters in a controlled deposition environment.

In short, this work shows EPD electrode manufacture can be applied as a platform technology for any battery and supercapacitor materials, producing more energy dense and / or power dense electrodes that are difficult to achieve using conventional slurry casting approach.
Exploitation Route We believe that the EPD approach is sufficiently generic that it can be applied for any battery materials and their chemistries, and the manufacturing methodologies and processes are common across scale can represent direct relevance for systematic improvement for the production of any existing Lithium-ion battery electrodes, beyond Lithium-ion chemistries (e.g. Na-ion, Mg-ion) and higher energy density electrochemical capacitors (based on metal oxides).
Sectors Energy,Transport

Description This project has received in-kind support from DZP Technologies Ltd. The company is also the lead industrial partner for EL2D project (funded by Innovate UK). ELEMENT is ongoing and EL2D was successfully completed on 20 November 2017. More recently (23 February 2018), the company informed me that they found distributors for their dispersion (Strem Chemicals Inc in the USA) and noted this is an "Impact" in business for them. An Innovate UK bid 'ENCODE' was submitted to the Faraday Challenge Round 3, a technology programme with industry (2 SMEs - DZP, D2H; 2 large international companies - DTF, Croda) on 12th December 2018. The bid was successful through the first stage but not the second stage application. A new commercial contract was awarded by GNN Ltd (UK). This involves the PI's activities in electrophoeretic deposition to produce coated current collector for battery applications. Various performance advantages of the technology have been recorded, and the funder is seeking next stage commercial development activities.
Sector Chemicals,Energy
Impact Types Economic

Description Nanocarbon coatings by electrophoretic technologies
Amount £113,000 (GBP)
Funding ID Ref/132895 
Organisation Innovate UK 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2017 
End 10/2018
Description Pitching talk to industry KTN event 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Activity: Over 60 people attended this industry-focused event 'Faraday Challenge Round 3' in London on the 19th September 2018.

Impact: I engaged with industry members through giving a talk about 'Electrode manufacture scale-up', which sparked interests afterwards about collaboration around the Innovation activities for battery materials, cell and battery manufacturing for electric vehicles.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
Description Supporting National Farmers Union and Greenwatt Task & Finish Working Group 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Activity: I acted as a technical lead in battery technology for National Farmers Union (NFU) and Greenwatt Task & Finish Working Group for the government. A total of 3 meetings for this activities: 20th July 2018, 23rd October 2018, 31st January 2019.

Impact: The working group has produced a strategy document (capturing the outcome of our discussion), which will be for submission to the government.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
Description Technology Engagement with Industry 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Activity: Over 100 people, mostly from chemicals industry, attended this industry-focused event 'UK Chemical Supply Chain for Battery Manufacture ' in Darlington on the 19th April 2018.

Impact: I engaged with industry members through giving a talk about 'Electrode manufacture scale-up' and acting as a discussion panel members, which sparked questions and discussion about the opportunities / challenges presented to the UK vehicle electrification industry.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2018