Understanding of degradation mechanisms to develop new materials for increased battery capacity and lifetime


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 The EPSRC funded Royce Industrial Collaboration Programme (ICP) has successfully matched companies that have research, development, and innovation (RD&I) projects with Royce experts in materials science and cutting-edge facilities in a truly collaborative endeavour. This case study illustrates the outcome of an ICP project between Johnson Matthey and Royce at Imperial College London.

ABOUT THE Johnson Matthey

 Johnson Matthey is a global leader in sustainable technologies that enable a cleaner and healthier world. With over 200 years of sustained commitment to innovation and technological breakthroughs, they improve the performance, function, and safety of their customers’ products. Johnson Matthey science has a global impact in areas such as low emission transport, energy, chemical processing and making the most efficient use of the planet’s natural resources. 


A successful transition to clean energy will depend on the reliability of the alternatives for fossil fuels. Batteries are a key zero-emission energy storage technology, used both on large scale and for portable devices and in transportation. Currently lithium-ion batteries suffer from degradation, which results in reduced lifetime or hazardous events (explosion and fire). Understanding the mechanisms of degradation are vital to improving the technology, and this project has worked with a commercial cathode material to monitor primary cause for chemical degradation. 


Scientists from Johnson Matthey and Imperial College worked in collaboration to probe battery cathode materials using state of-the-art characterisation techniques available at Royce. The cross-technique analysis allowed to bridge mechanical properties of particles and electrodes with degradation observed as a result of gas evolution during battery operation.

A newly developed operando electrochemical-mass spectrometry (EC-MS) technique was used to study gas evolution during battery charging and discharge. This allowed researchers to track the parasitic reactions occurring. The results were correlated with ex-situ micromechanical measurements and time of flight secondary ion mass spectrometry, increasing understanding of individual particle stability and chemical compositional before and after cycling respectively. 


The operando EC-MS equipment and glovebox where air-sensitive measurements are carried are located on the Royce floor of the Sir Michael Uren Hub at Imperial College London. 

Developing our understanding of degradation mechanisms will open up the development of new and improved materials that tackle key battery issues and improve lifetime and capacity. Such an advancement will be crucial for the transition to carbon neutral energy storage systems.

Carmen Murphy, Johnson Matthey

Project Collaborators: 

Dr Bethan Davies, Research Associate, Imperial College London

Daisy Rogers-Simmonds, Research Postgraduate, Imperial College London