ISCF Wave 1:Designing Electrodes for Na Ion Batteries via Structure Electrochemical Performance Correlations

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Department of Chemical Engineering


Alignment with the Industrial Strategy Challenge Funds

This proposal aims to advance fundamental knowledge within the development low cost anodes for Na-ion batteries in order to accelerate the commercialisation of Na-ion batteries in the UK. Our proposed research clearly aligns with the Industrial Strategy Challenge Funds objectives and aims as following:

ELECTRONIBs will closely collaborate with major industrial battery developers in the UK (Johnson Matthey and Faradion). Having them closely involved within our research will enable us to further apply jointly for various industrial funds in the future (for example via Innovate UK or the future Faraday Institute) to facilitate collaborations with other major industrial and academic battery developers in the UK. This will in turn increase the UK businesses' investment in R&D and improved R&D capability and capacity.

ELECTRONIBS is a highly interdisciplinary research involving materials synthesis, electrochemistry, advanced characterisation and modelling and academics with complementary expertise. We will work closely with many EU and international experts from Germany, China, Sweden and Japan and we will involve UK and International industries. Therefore, we are likely to have an important academic and industrial impact not only at national level but also internationally leading to an increased multi- and interdisciplinary research around the very challenging area of low cost energy storage.

Having directly involved in our proposal several UK and international companies working in the challenging are of batteries and energy storage will likely lead to an increased business-academic engagement on innovation activities in the field of Na-ion batteries. Key results will be discussed directly with industry, with a view to applying for Innovate UK funding to develop products based on shared expertise - our knowledge and understanding of the materials and how to synthesize/process them; industry's knowledge of product development, from initial prototype to market-ready devices, as well as their keen business acumen and market knowledge needed to successfully take a product to market.

ELECTRONIBS has partners ranging from well established companies like JM to smaller SMES working in the field of Energy Storage like Faradion as well as companies producing low cost carbon materials such as AVA CO2. We have collaborative links with Toyota Central Research and Development Laboratories, the pioneering hybrid motor vehicle company that has a truly international influence. We also have Chinese Academy of Science via the Institute of Physics involved which have now their own spin off in producing Na-ion batteries. This will likely lead to increased collaboration between younger, smaller companies and larger, more established companies up the value chain in the UK and internationally. Our international collaborations will likely increase overseas investment in R&D in the UK.

Due to their outstanding energy and power density, lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) have become the technology of choice for today's electrical energy storage. However, LIBs are not suitable for stationary energy storage because of their high costs and increasingly higher strain on lithium resources. Therefore there is a strong need to increase the diversity of energy storage solutions for energy security considerations.
Sodium-ion batteries (SIBs) started to receive significantly more attention as low cost and affordable alternative to LIBs. This grant will explore new lost cost anodes based on available precursors with the aim to increase the SIB performance and facilitate their comercialisation. We will develop fundamental insights into the mechanisms of sodium ion storage, diffusion and intercalation in our designed electrodes by employing complex characterisation techniques and molecular simulations during battery operation.

Planned Impact

This project aims to make significant advances in Na ion battery technologies via multidisciplinary research to enable tuning materials properties for improved performance and faster developments.

The successful delivery of this project will lead to production of Na-ion batteries prototypes and future commercialisation, providing cheaper, cleaner, safer and more sustainable energy storage solutions. This will allow a more intensive use of renewables and therefore a reduction of CO2 emissions within the UK energy landscape and thus bring significant health and environmental benefits.

The development of low cost energy storage devices will also promote reductions in the costs of portable electronic devices, which will have important societal impact.

The benefits to the wider society are:

(1) a low cost energy storage technology made available via sodium ion batteries;
(2) greater energy storage capacity in the UK and thus huge savings in the energy bills for the public;
(3) large-scale employment of renewable energies in the UK ( particularly wind, wave and tidal energy) and thus the transition to a low carbon society;
(4) enhancement of the UK's energy security and environmental sustainability.

Commercial beneficiaries of the research (wealth generation in 10 - 25 years) will be companies in the UK and worldwide in/or part of the supply chain for Na-ion technologies. More specifically, in the 5 - 15 year window, UK industry will directly benefit if the outcomes of the research would lead to more developed and focused academic-industry collaborations (Innovate UK/ Knowledge Transfer Partnerships). The potential IP that could be generated in the area of Na-ion technology for energy storage will yield opportunities for spin-out companies, providing employment opportunities and adding value to the UK economy.

The UK-based and international partners are committed to supporting aspects of this project within their own research capacity. Further collaborations with leading groups and the development of multidisciplinary research projects will be fostered during this project. Close collaborations with prestigious academic partners such as Chinese Academy of Science, Institute of Physics in Beijing, Max-Planck Institutes and KTH Royal Institute of Technology within the project will stimulate global collaborations and facilitate knowledge transfer across countries.

In short-term (3 years), this project will provide highly skilled researchers (i.e. PDRAs and PhDs in the project) who will have developed multidisciplinary skills and will have experienced a broad range of technological fields that are important for R&D programmes required for market innovation for NIB technology and beyond.

The project will also enable the creation of a platform for taking MSc, MEng and BSc students on a vast range of small projects. This will enable graduates (particularly those from QMUL and Surrey) to be trained with cutting edge technology and skills for the job market.

Thus the impact can be seen within the academic community in terms of new and niche UK research, educational areas in terms of skills development and teaching materials and policy areas in terms of growing realistic options within the energy diversity goals.


10 25 50
Description We have learned by advanced synthesis and characterisation how one can tune the characteristic of carbon anodes to achieve an outstanding performance in Na-ion batteries. We have demonstrated the implementation of these materials at full cell level coin cells. This will have a major impact in the future manufacturing on Na-ion batteries.
Exploitation Route We have now based on this a new collaborative project with Shell and we hope to see some of these discoveries translated at industrial scale. I was also awarded a RAEng award which will enable me to take some of these discoveries from lab to market.
Sectors Energy

Description The findings from this project have generated a relatively large Imperial-Shell collaboration and new funding, and we are looking to bring some of the ICSF closer to the market. At the same time they have also led to a RAEng Chair in Emerging Technologies fellowship awarded to Prof. Titirici which will further contribute to the continuation of these research activities and expansion towards other alternative chemistries and potentially a spin out in the future. We have also organised a series of outreach activities on batteries from participation in Pint of Science, to hosting visits to school-aged girls to promote women in science, as well as a "future of transportation" event.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Energy
Impact Types Economic

Description Organising the joint UK-Germany energy transitions event via the Royal Academy of Engineering
Geographic Reach Europe 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact I was invited to chair from the UKL site a RAEng event on the future of energy storage together with German partners to foster collaborations and help transition towards a her emission society
Description Sustainable Processing of Energy Materials from Waste
Amount £812,805 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/S018204/2 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2019 
End 03/2022
Description Collaboration with Shell 
Organisation Shell Global Solutions International BV
Department Shell Chemicals in Europe
Country Netherlands 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution We are performing research on discovering low cost anode materials for Na ion batteries and test their electrochemical interfaces to achieve high reversible Coulombic efficiency.
Collaborator Contribution They funded two PhD students and one PDRA to complement the ISCF project and deliver the next generation on na ion batteries and they will provide some access to Shell laboratories in Amsterdam.
Impact Is to early to list outputs as this was funded end of 2019
Start Year 2019
Description Discussion of electric cars and Na-ion technology on BBC Radio 4's Inside Science 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Recording a short segment/interview with a journalist from BBC Radio 4's Inside Science about the future of electric cars, and future battery technology, to raise awareness of alternative energies and discussion about viability.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
Description Future of transportation-Imperial lates outreach 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact a show showing how you can store energy in battery by cycling and filling your mobile phone
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
Description I can be-empowering school girls from different London areas 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact This activity is part of " I can be" initiative to empower girls from schools in London and encourage them into science and engineering
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
Description Pint of Science-outreach activity 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Giving a general talk on batteries to the general public in a pub
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
Description Presentations at international conferences 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentations at many international conferences including MC12, MRS Fall, Carbon 2019 and many more conferences
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
Description Women in Engineering Day 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact ~120 people attended this "Celebrating women in engineering" event including undergraduate/postgraduate students, industry partners, engineering entrepreneurs, and school children (ranging from middle school to A levels), and many of the students I spoke to after my talk showed a genuine interest in pursuing chemistry or engineering, and were surprised at what battery research could entail.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019