Novel Manufacturing Approaches to Next Generation Batteries

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Materials

Abstract

Electrical energy storage can contribute to meeting the UK's binding greenhouse emission targets by enabling low carbon transport through electric vehicles (EVs) in the expanding electric automotive industry. However, challenges persist in terms of performance, safety, durability and costs of the energy storage devices such as lithium ion batteries (LIBs). Although there has been research in developing new chemistry and advanced materials that has significantly improved electrical energy storage performance, the structure of the electrodes and LIBs and their manufacturing methods have not been changed since the 1980s. The current manufacturing methods do not allow control over the structures at the electrode and device levels, which leads to restricted ion transport during cycling.

The approach of this research is to develop a complete materials-manufacture-characterisation chain for LIBs, solid-state LIBs (SSLIBs) and next generation of batteries. Novel structures at the electrode and device levels will be designed to promote fast directional ion transport, increase energy and power densities, improve safety and cycling performance and reduce costs. New, scalable manufacturing techniques will be developed to realise making the designed structures and reduce interfacial resistance in SSLIBs. Finally, state-of-the-art physical and chemical characterisation techniques including a suite of X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS), X-ray computed tomography (XCT) and electrochemical testing will be used to understand the underlining charge storage mechanism, interfacial phenomena and how electrochemical performance is influenced by structural changes of the energy storage devices. The results will subsequently be used to guide iterations of the structure design.

The fabricated batteries will be packaged into pouch cells and rigorously tested by EV protocols through close collaborations with industry to ensure flexible adaptability to the current industry match to create near-term high impact in industry. The commercialisation strategy is to license developed intellectual property (IP) to material and battery manufacturers.

Planned Impact

Global climate change due to greenhouse gases produced by human activities has already had observable effects on the environment. Under the 2008 Climate Change Act, the UK has a legally binding target to reduce carbon emissions by at least 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. To mitigate climate change and address poor local air quality, Britain and most countries of the world will ban new petrol and diesel vehicles from approximately 2040, leading to a huge global electric vehicle (EV) market that is currently growing at 28.3% per annum. Improving battery systems for EVs is a required game changer for the UK to take leadership of the global transition to a low carbon economy. However, almost all of the large-scale battery manufacturers are based in Asia. The shares of global lithium ion battery (LIB) production in 2017 were 48%, 27% and 25% in Japan, South Korea and China, respectively. The Gigafactory in the US will also increase LIB production significantly from 2018. This creates disconnect in translating the UK's strength in energy storage science into competitive products for the UK electric automotive industry.

My research focuses on unique manufacturing innovations for batteries in the UK. My research directly addresses the 2017 Industrial Strategy and the EPSRC priority area of "Development and manufacture of batteries for the electrification of vehicles". My research also aligns strongly with two EPSRC themes "Energy" and "Manufacturing the Future", and forms a link between them. This link is critical if the UK is to secure commercial competitiveness in the energy area. The research also falls squarely within the remit of the EPSRC SUPERGEN Energy Storage Hub based in Oxford, and collaborates with High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult at the Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) funded by the Technology Strategy Board.

I have taken the initiative to develop my own team of UK leading industrial partners in the sectors of batteries, electric automotive and manufacturing to exploit my ideas. Given the early stage of my career, I am pleased that my proposed research has already attracted significant and diverse industrial support. Evidence of their commitment to work with me is given in the attached Letters of Support. My proposed research will collaborate with industry to develop and scale up a unique, novel and world-leading manufacturing capability for making structured batteries to contribute to the UK economy in the emerging electric transport battery industry. The research programme will evaluate economic feasibility of the technologies that I develop, and commercialise the most promising technologies. The partner companies represent the near-term and most credible route to the commercial exploitation of innovations that arise from my research. Throughout the Fellowship, the timely recognition and protection of exploitable intellectual property (IP) will be realised through Oxford University Innovation that advises on licensing patents and possible spin-out opportunities.

This Fellowship will train at least 1 DPhil student and 1 PDRA, promote communication between academia and industry, and provide the DPhil student and PDRA with the skills that are highly needed by the growing UK battery industrial base.

The outcomes of this research will be disseminated through open dissemination events, public engagement events and intermediary organisations (such as the EPSRC SUPERGEN Energy Storage Hub, the EPSRC Energy Storage Research Network, etc.) to inform policy makers and other researchers in the energy and wider fields, as well as to facilitate public understanding of battery research and technologies, especially in the aspects of safety, sustainability, cost and performance relating to social, economic and policy changes that are relevant to the public.

Publications

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Description A processing technique has been developed to make advanced electrodes for lithium ion batteries. An optimal configuration of the electrodes was discovered that improved the energy storage performance of the batteries. Research has been carried out to confirm that this processing technique can be used for multiple electrode materials.
Exploitation Route The manufacturing approach can be applied to other materials.
Sectors Energy,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

 
Description The processing technique that has been developed during this award gives battery manufacturers another perspective of how manufacturing techniques can be improved.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology
Impact Types Cultural