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UK engineers secure funding to develop next-generation lithium-ion batteries

Fri, 05/14/2021 - 10:57 -- paul Crompton

Two UK universities have secured funding to research enhanced materials for lithium-ion battery electrodes.

The three-year project will see the University of Cambridge and University College of London work on experimental and numerical tools as well as production techniques for lithium-ion electrodes, especially the cathode.

The materials will be based on layered, multi-element metal oxides (MOs) and carbon-metal oxides (CMOs). 

The main area of research will focus on nickel manganese cobalt oxides (NMC), due to their popularity with electric vehicle makers. 

Research, which will end in January 2024, aims to reveal the dynamic processes of, and controlling mechanisms behind, particle formation, growth and coating. 

Researchers will look at detailed transport and chemical reactions at the microscopic level; identify the factors affecting phase change and particle growth at the mesoscopic level; and at the macroscopic level, the input parameters and time scales of key processes linked with MO and CMO products.

The £387,990 ($539,000) research grant was made by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. 

The study will be conducted by professor Simone Hochgreb (flame synthesis), Dr Adam Boies (nanoparticle synthesis) and professor Michaël De Volder (nanomaterial and batteries) from Cambridge, and professor Kai Luo (modelling and simulation) from University College London.

The experiments will involve in-situ and ex-situ measurements to qualify and quantify the synthesis process. 

The fundamental insights gained, and tools and production techniques developed, will be used for controlled flame synthesis of materials.

Insights will be directly tied to battery performance metrics in collaboration with Chinese battery maker Contemporary Amperex Technology, anode firm Echion Technologies (a University of Cambridge spin-out), UK hydrogen technology company TFP Hydrogen Products, and Chinese fuel cell developer Shanghai Tang Feng Energy Technology.

These companies' activities cover the technology readiness levels from two to nine.

The research and production techniques explored— including flame spray pyrolysis (FSP)— will be applicable for a large class of MOs and CMOs.

Hochgreb said: “One of the biggest obstacles facing us in making the transition to electric vehicles is the charging infrastructure itself, which is why research is needed to ensure that the power density and cost requirements for next-generation EVs and energy storage systems are met.

“Our manufacturing technique for lithium-ion batteries using flame spray pyrolysis is a one-step continuous process with the potential to produce designer materials at scale and low cost.” 

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