A £29 million investment is set to bolster six cutting-edge projects aimed at advancing the next generation of battery technology. Funded by the Faraday Battery Challenge through Innovate UK, this investment will support research through to 31 March 2025. The projects include the development of solid-state batteries for electric vehicles, a project on battery degradation, focusing on extending battery life and enabling rapid charging and a project on lithium-sulphur batteries, aiming to overcome current technological hurdles and improve their performance.
Solid-state batteries for electric vehicles
The Solid-state Batteries (SOLBAT) project, led by Professor Mauro Pasta from the University of Oxford’s Department of Materials, aims to demonstrate the feasibility of a solid-state battery with superior performance to lithium-ion in electric vehicle (EV) applications. By safely implementing metallic lithium anodes, solid-state batteries could increase the range of EV batteries, reduce recharging time and address safety concerns by eliminating the need for flammable liquid electrolytes.
SOLBAT was established to address fundamental research challenges facing the realisation of solid-state batteries and to develop solutions that can scale to commercially competitive products. The new funding will enable the project to focus on failure mechanisms and develop solutions for anode, cathode, and electrolyte technology.
Battery degradation: extending battery life
Researchers from the Universities of Cambridge and Warwick, along with Professor Robert Weatherup and other researchers from the University of Oxford, are leading the Battery Degradation project. The project aims to examine how environmental factors and internal battery stresses (such as high temperatures and the charging process) degrade EV batteries over time. Using advanced modelling and characterisation techniques, the project seeks to understand the degradation of lithium-ion batteries containing high Ni-content NMC and graphite.
Applying this knowledge will allow the optimisation of battery materials and cells to extend battery life (and hence EV range) and reduce battery costs. It could also help enable rapid charging of EV batteries, a crucial step towards mass adoption of the technology.
The LiSTAR project, led by University College London (UCL) and involving researchers from the University of Oxford, focuses on lithium-sulphur (Li-S) batteries. Compared to conventional lithium-ion batteries, Li-S cells store more energy per unit weight, can operate in a wider temperature range, and may offer safety and cost improvements. However, widespread use of Li-S faces major hurdles due to sulfur’s insulating nature, migration of discharge products leading to the loss of active material, and degradation of the anode. LiSTAR is addressing these challenges by generating new knowledge, materials, and engineering solutions in four key areas: cathodes, electrolytes, modelling platforms, and device engineering.
Professor Mauro Pasta of Oxford University is also involved in this project. With the new funding he will lead a new work area in the LiSTAR project that aims to develop an all-solid-state Li-S battery.
Multi-scale modelling for improved battery designs
Imperial College London leads the Multi-scale Modelling project, involving researchers from the University of Oxford and other institutions. Accurate simulations of batteries could enable manufacturers to improve battery designs and performance without having to create expensive prototypes to test every new material or design. The current tools, however, typically lack the accuracy required for understanding the phenomena occurring within batteries.
The Multi-scale Modelling project aims to develop new digital and experimental techniques for understanding battery behaviour at different physical scales (from the nanoscale to whole-pack level) and time frames (from nanosecond atomic processes through to long-term degradation). Ultimately, this will enable fast, accurate models that incorporate the most complete physics and advanced mathematical techniques, developed to be directly usable for industry.
Recycling and reuse: Advancing battery recycling technologies
The ReLiB project, led by Professor Paul Anderson from the University of Birmingham, is focused on developing, improving, and scaling up recycling technologies for batteries and transitioning these technologies to the industry. This project aims to create cutting-edge diagnostic and decision-making methodologies that will optimise and automate pack handling logistics for end-of-life batteries, enabling autonomous decisions on recycling or reusing in second-life applications such as grid storage. By improving current industry practices to beyond 90% efficiency, the project aims to add value to the recycling process through increased purity of recovered materials and re-engineering them for new uses. Researchers will continue to explore processes for recovering valuable and non-valuable materials from waste streams using novel methods, often proving these processes at a larger scale than previously achieved.
Battery safety: Investigating failure modes and developing safer systems
The SafeBatt project, led by Professor Paul Shearing from University College London (UCL), 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. The project focuses on studying cell-to-cell failure propagation and developing detection methods and mitigation strategies to prevent thermal runaway and propagation. A model that can predict thermal runaway and simulate the external flow of gas, heat, and ejecta during failure will be developed, informing the design of safer battery systems. SafeBatt will also conduct tests in larger format cells and at module level to help industry and other stakeholders understand how electric vehicle (EV) and micro-mobility battery packs and static energy storage systems fail in real-world scenarios. This research will continue to inform the project’s international dissemination activities 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.