Nottingham university receives share of £55m for energy storage research

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The University of Nottingham is one of five UK-based consortia to receive a share of up to £55 million from the Faraday Institution to conduct application-inspired research to make step changes in the development of battery chemistries, systems and manufacturing methods.

The new projects, for the first time, include the University of Nottingham as a consortium partner, further strengthening the Faraday Institution’s network of member universities. The new project will create two new positions for early career researchers in Nottingham, many of whom are expected to move into battery science and engineering from other fields.

Next generation research

The School of Chemistry will be conducting research into improving batteries used for transport and energy storage, examining thechemical composition of batteries to create the next generation for electric vehicles. The research will be carried out in the university’s  GSK Carbon Neutral Laboratory and is part of the Alternative cell chemistry beyond lithium ion–LiSTAR, Lithium-Sulfur Technology Accelerator which will be led by University College London and will be funded up to a maximum of £7.8m.

The University of Nottingham will work alongside five other university partners and seven industrial partners to enable rapid improvements in Li-S technologies by generating new knowledge, materials and engineering solutions, thanks to its dual focus on fundamental research at material and cell level, and an improved approach to system engineering.

If the potential of Li-S is realised it would take batteries for automotive and other applications beyond the inherent limitations of Li-ion chemistry: Li-S is one of the most promising and mature alternative technologies available. The Principal Investigator of this consortia is Professor Paul Shearing of UCL. Other consortia partners are Imperial College London, University of Cambridge, University of Nottingham, University of Oxford, University of Southampton and University of Surrey.

“This project could revolutionise the battery market and will result in the training of a large number of battery scientists. The resulting injection of talent into the emerging battery industry will directly benefit the Midlands region, which already has a strong footprint in the electrification of the automotive sector,” said Dr Lee Johnson, a Nottingham Research Fellow with the University of Nottingham’s Propulsion Futures Beacon.

There are a total of five new projects in four focus areas joining the existing Faraday Institution research projects that collectively aim to deliver the organisation’s mission toaccelerate breakthroughs in energy storage technologies to benefit the UK in the global race to electrification. This expanded portfolio has the duel aims of improving current generation lithium ion batteries as well as longer horizon materials discovery and optimisation projects to support the commercialisation of next-generation batteries.

UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive, Professor Sir Mark Walport, said: “Bringing together experts across industry and academia, this exciting research will grow our understanding of battery chemistries and manufacturing methods, with the potential to significantly improve the UK’s ability to develop the high-performance electric vehicles of the future.”

Business Minister, Nadhim Zahawi, said: “Today’s funding backs scientists and innovators to collaborate on projects that will deliver a brighter, cleaner future on our roads. We are committed to ensuring that the UK is at the forefront of developing the battery technologies needed to achieve our aim for all cars and vans to be effectively zero emission by 2040.”

The projects, which are expected to run over four years, address battery challenges faced by industry and leverage the UK’s world-class research capabilities to advance scientific knowledge with the aim of commercialising new battery technologies and processes.

Three of the Faraday Institution’s four existing projects are focused on improving current generation lithium-ion battery chemistry, performance and recyclability. The fourth is seeking to address the scientific barriers facing the commercial realisation of solid-state batteries. These projects were launched early in 2018, totalling £42m and involve over 200 researchers from 20 universities, with their 30+ industrial partners.

The topics for the new research projects were chosen after consultation with industry, academia, local and central government and other stakeholders at workshops held across the UK in 2018. Industry partners will work closely with university researchers for the duration of the projects. This collaboration will ensure that the research produces findings and solutions that meet the needs of the UK’s businesses. The 32 industrial partners involved in the projects announced today have pledged a total of £4.4 million in in-kind support. The terms of the awards are currently being finalised.

Neil Morris, CEO of the Faraday Institution, said: “It is imperative that the UK takes a lead role in increasing the efficiency of energy storage as the world moves towards low carbon economies and seeks to switch to clean methods of energy production. Improvements in EV cost, range and longevity are desired by existing EV owners and those consumers looking to purchase an EV as their next or subsequent car.

“Our research to improve this web of battery performance indicators (which are different for different sectors) are being researched, with a sense of urgency, by the Faraday Institution and its academic and industrial partners. Our fundamental research programmes are putting the UK at the forefront of this disruptive societal, environmental and economic change.”