Electric car charging
Electric car charging

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Oxford leading project to revolutionise electric vehicle batteries

Nextrode project could revolutionise the way electrodes for Li-ion electric vehicle (EV) batteries are manufactured.

Funded by The Faraday Institution, The University of Oxford will lead a consortium of five other university and six industry partners in the “Nextrode” project,to revolutionise the way electrodes for Li-ion batteries are manufactured.

By understanding how materials assemble as electrodes are cast, and developing new manufacturing tools, the consortium aims to usher in a new generation of smart, high performance electrodes, which could enable electric vehicles (EVs) with a longer range and batteries that are more durable.

The project’s Principal Investigator is Professor Patrick Grant, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) at Oxford University, based at the University’s Department of Materials.

Nextrode aims to strengthen the scientific understanding of existing electrode manufacturing so we can make it more flexible and extract further performance gains, but we will also develop a new generation of manufacturing approaches for “smart” electrodes where the different electrode materials are arranged with greater precision and provide even greater performance benefits. We anticipate these benefits could be realised for almost any type of battery chemistry. 

Professor Patrick Grant

Today’s Li-ion batteries are made using a “slurry casting” process, whereby the active materials are mixed in a wet slurry and coated onto thin foils of aluminium or copper, then dried and compressed. This process is highly effective for mass production, but is developed empirically through trial and error, at great cost to the manufacturer

Furthermore, slurry cast electrodes limit the performance of the battery as the active electrochemical materials are uniformly distributed throughout the electrode structure. Research has shown that arranging the materials in a structured way can dramatically improve battery performance, but at present there is no mass-manufacturing route to do so. This project will investigate new manufacturing methods to create structured electrodes in a cost effective way at high manufacturing volumes.

Other university partners are University of Birmingham, University College London, University of Sheffield, University of Southampton and University of Warwick.

This project is one of five that the Faraday Institution has announced. In total, it will award up to £55 million to five UK-based consortia to conduct application-inspired research over the next four years to make step changes in the understanding of battery chemistries, systems and manufacturing methods.

Business Minister, Nadhim Zahawi comments:

‘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.’

Neil Morris, CEO of the Faraday Institution comments:

‘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.’

UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive, Professor Sir Mark Walport, comments:

‘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.’

Read more in The Telegraph: UK leads drive to develop next generation of car batteries with £55m of funding.