ISCF Wave 1: 3D electrodes from 2D materials

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Chemistry


This project focuses on delivering one of the key Industrial Challenge Fund Areas, which is 'the design, development and manufacture of batteries for the electrification of vehicles'. The improved materials, electrodes and devices will be designed, manufactured and validated in two key centres in the UK, which are (1) National Graphene Centre at Manchester and (2) the UK's first full battery prototyping lines in a non-commercial environment at the WMG Energy Innovation Centre.
Developments in electrochemical energy storage have transformed our use of personal devices (mobile phones, laptops)
and are now poised to bring about a similar transformation in vehicular transport. Electrochemical energy storage (batteries
for storage of energy, supercapacitors where delivery of power is critical) is also making in-roads to other fields of transport,
such as aircraft, and is increasingly a focus for storage of electricity on the "grid" scale. Improvements in energy storage
depend on a chain of technological developments, but the initial one is the development of new electrochemistry/electrode
materials, which allows more energy to be stored and/or higher power extraction.
The advent of 2D materials, sparked by the isolation of graphene (2-dimensional carbon) and understanding of its
exceptional physical properties, has ignited enormous interest in the application of this family of materials as electrodes,
with the express goals of improving existing storage approaches, and of developing new electrochemical storage methods.
Although initial results with graphene, in both the battery and supercapacitor contexts, have been promising subsequent
work has shown that the strong thermodynamic tendency of graphene sheets to re-aggregate (to graphite) means that
initial improvements in performance are generally not retained over repeated cycles.
The approach that we concentrate on in this work is to use so-called heterostructures, solution phase mixtures
of more than one 2D material, as our composite electrode material.
A second point is that 2D materials are often only available on a very small scale, thus testing of their
performance in electrochemical storage technologies is frequently performed on scales that are too small to be
representative of realistic devices, particularly with regard to transport applications. Again, we will address this challenge by
exploiting our own (patented) method to "exfoliate" 2D materials, which is scaleable, and by building in porosity to the
electrode design when scaling the electrode preparations up. Finally, we will test the assembled large scale
devices under realistic operational conditions and use the results of that testing to inform further optimisation of the
material preparation and the electrode formulation.
The proposal aligns strongly with the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund objectives in that it:
1: has strong support from a range of UK businesses (right across the value chain from small materials processing firms to end users such as JLR) and thereby increases UK businesses' investment in R&D and improved R&D capability and capacity;
2: the work is a collaboration between a Chemist (Manchester), Chemical Engineer (WMG) and Electrical Engineers (Manchester), and thus provides multi- and interdisciplinary research around the challenge areas of the ISCF;
3: the project will increase business-academic links in areas relating to the challenge areas, specifically as development of new electrode materials, novel methods to study degradation and to model cell performance are important components of this work
4: the project will increase collaboration between younger, smaller companies (eg Archipelago) and larger, more established companies up the value chain (eg Johnson Matthey, JLR);
5: Successful prosecution of the project will increase overseas investment in R&D in the UK, given the direct links to overseas-owned industries in the project.

Planned Impact

The growth of the UK renewable energy sector, in particular its expansion into the low-carbon mobility and low-carbon grid
will stimulate the demand for highly skilled UK materials, engineering and manufacturing jobs. UK society will therefore
benefit through more energy efficient transport and cleaner energy from the grid, with the resulting lower CO2 emission,
cost reductions and air quality improvements - all with consequent improvements in public health. Our project expects to
drive the translation of new materials and electrodes from UK labs into the real-world, and therefore establish a key
milestone for the UK industry to exploit the manufacture of game-changing energy storage devices via innovation in the
underpinning science and high value added manufacturing technologies.
Energy storage is a driver of economic growth, with the global market for electrochemical capacitors reported to worth over
$6 billion by 2024 and lithium batteries predicted to be worth over £60 billion within the next 20 years, and in particular the
failure to deploy grid-scale energy storage could lead to high system costs from 2030. This project will therefore enable
these economic opportunities, working directly with high value added companies which will be immediate beneficiaries from
our project. This will enable the UK to increase (and continues to remain) its global competitiveness. We provide
statements of support detailing the involvement of companies representing the major stakeholders across the full supply
chain: from materials and electrodes manufacture to automotive manufacture. These include major exploiters and
employers in the UK (Johnson Matthey, Technical Fibre, Archipelago and Jaguar Land Rover).
The project team will benefit from working on an exciting and leading project with a broad range of opportunities - this will
aid their personal and career development. They will all benefit through enhanced research profile, but crucially from the
shared learning from working together and information flow between Manchester and Warwick, plus the training created by
the project members and opportunities from the industrial contribution. The research outputs will enable both universities to
expand their individual research portfolios that underpin commitment to teaching STEM subjects at undergraduate and postgraduate
levels. This will cover taught materials and projects, at all levels from basic skills to doctoral level: students will benefit from
the incorporation of new collaborative R&D knowledge and the feedback of 'industrial relevance' from organisations
exploiting the knowledge. This will therefore nurture future generations of engineers and scientists, in particular equipping
them with the new skills necessary for advanced materials, engineering and manufacturing sectors. Other research
institutions, nationally and internationally will benefit from the learning and also the shared knowledge, methodologies and
data that will be made available from the project. In particular, engagement with the wider UK community via EPSRC
funded research programmes (both existing such as the SUPERGEN Energy Storage Hub and nascent, such as the Faraday Challenge hub) will stimulate new research opportunities crossing boundaries, generating new research ideas and establishing new links with new colleagues.


10 25 50

publication icon
Cao J (2020) High-Power Energy Storage from Carbon Electrodes Using Highly Acidic Electrolytes in The Journal of Physical Chemistry C

publication icon
Chakrabarti B (2022) Modern practices in electrophoretic deposition to manufacture energy storage electrodes in International Journal of Energy Research

Description 2D materials have excited enormous interest for various applications, since the isolation of graphene in Manchester approximately 15 years ago. Energy storage applications of these materials have been one of applications which have remained to the fore. The diversity of 2D materials, in particular involving the transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDC) family, has attracted attention because of the ability to form composites and "heterostructures" by combining more than one 2D material within an electrode structure. The general motivation is that bespoke properties can be obtained by tuning the composition, however the process used to "assemble" the resultant material will also dictate its performance as an electrode. This project spans three collaborating groups in two institutions (Manchester and Warwick). Each group leads a workpackage (WP). The Manchester Chemistry group (Dryfe) lead WP1, on the preparation and characterisation of the 2D materials; the Warwick Manufacturing group (Low) lead WP2, which focuses on the assembly of these materials into graded electrode structures; and the Manchester Electrical engineering group (Forsyth/Todd) lead WP3, dealing with the electrical characterisation of large (pouch cell scale) cells.
The overall goal of the project is captured in the project objectives (JE-S form), namely: the proposal seeks to develop and test, from the material preparation to final large scale device scale, supercapacitors based on mixtures of 2D materials.
The specific deliverables of the project, again taken from the JE-S "objectives" are:
(a) novel generation of 2D materials and their composites for energy storage,
(b) new combination of high energy and power density graded electrodes,
(c) a suite of functioning pouch cell devices for technological applications,
(d) new knowledge in the manufacturability of novel materials, electrodes and devices and
(e) new understanding and quantification based on simulation and experimental assessment of the characteristics and performance of energy storage materials, electrodes and devices under realistic operational conditions.
Exploitation Route The main route to exploit the work would be through the various industrial collaborators associated with the project.
Sectors Energy,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

Description Two patents, on a related topic related to graphene production and energy storage applications thereof, have been licensed to First Graphene Ltd. Ongoing collaboration/licensing arrangement with First Graphene re. the commercialisation of this work. Also, a spin-out has been founded (2020). The spin-out (Molymem) now has a full-time employee (2022)
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Energy,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology
Impact Types Economic

Description Impact accelaration account
Amount £25,000 (GBP)
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2019 
End 03/2020
Description Rolls ROyce 
Organisation Rolls Royce Group Plc
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Investigation of 2d materials as supercapacitors for energy storage
Collaborator Contribution Industrial know-how, applicability/end use testing of devices
Impact Project is still ongoing
Start Year 2017
Description industrial partner 
Organisation Johnson Matthey
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution academic knowledge on electrochemical energy storage
Collaborator Contribution industrial input - testing and supply of materials.
Impact too early, project only 15 months in
Start Year 2017
Description industrial partner 
Organisation Technical Fibre Products
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Academic knowledge on electrochemical energy storage.
Collaborator Contribution Collaboration, supply of material to project
Impact Project is only 15 months old, research collaboration with company is ongoing
Start Year 2017
Title Metal oxide graphene composite 
Description Electrochemical method to make high quality graphene with applications in energy storage 
IP Reference PCT/EP18/086713 
Protection Patent application published
Year Protection Granted 2018
Licensed Yes
Impact Licences to First graphene Ltd
Title Metal oxide graphene composite 
Description Patent application for electrochemical method to make metal oxide/graphene composites 
IP Reference PCT/EP18/086698 
Protection Patent application published
Year Protection Granted 2017
Licensed Yes
Impact Licensed to First Graphene Ltd by Unviersity of Manchester
Description Univ of Manchester spin-out to commercialise research on membrane applications of 2d materials, specifically exfoliated Molybdenum disulfide. Filtration applications are being prioritised (desalination, and other types of water treatment). 
Year Established 2020 
Impact Company is less than one year old, and being founded during a pandemic hasn't helped. Waiting to hear about various bids for further funding/collaborative programmes with external industry.
Description University of Manchester "policy" brochure, "On Energy" 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Contributed article on Electrochemical energy storage to University policy brochure
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
Description outreach activities 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Lecture to students at sixth form college in Warrington, Cheshire on research related to current project
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018