- The University of Manchester project is one of three awarded a share of £2m to strengthen the UK’s global role in energy storage research.
- The Faraday Institution has awarded £500,000 to researchers at The University of Manchester, as one of three UK-based consortia conducting research on battery characterisation and analytical techniques.
Dr Robert Weatherup, from the Department of Chemistry at the University, will lead a £500,000 project, called “What lies beneath? Probing buried interfaces in working batteries”. The project aims to accelerate the understanding of battery materials, and enable scientific breakthroughs that will ultimately improve the performance of electric vehicles (EVs).
Specifically, researchers aim to develop new characterisation techniques, to enable the exploration of changes at interfaces within the battery while it is charging and discharging. These interfaces, between the electrodes of a battery and the electrolyte-fluid, are buried deep inside the battery, so “seeing the chemistry is challenging”, says Dr Weatherup.
The work is being carried out in collaboration with Oxfordshire-based Diamond Light Source (DLS), with contributions from eight other partners. Using newly available experimental techniques at DLS and the Henry Royce Institute, researchers will be able to examine a battery with three key interface-sensitive characterisation techniques, allowing them to use complementary data to build a more complete picture of how interfaces within the battery change and interact.
It is hoped that this data will allow researchers to understand in more detail how batteries lose their capacity – the amount of energy they can store – through degradation of the electrode materials. This knowledge could then be applied to EVs, increasing the life of a battery before it needs to be replaced. “In a petrol car, the engine is high value”, explains Dr Weatherup, “But in an EV it’s the battery, and you don’t want to replace it every three years as it loses capacity.”
Alongside the other two award winners, the work by Dr Weatherup and his team aims to support the Faraday Institution’s ongoing goal to deliver research that will benefit the UK in the global drive towards low-carbon technology. It is hoped that the technical advances the projects enable will help UK researchers and industry to lead the way in the development of next-generation batteries, as part of the wider movement towards decarbonisation of transport through the introduction of longer-lasting EVs.
The three projects build upon the recommendations of the academic community and a study of scientific facilities in the UK (“Identifying Infrastructure and Collaborative Expertise for Electrochemical Energy Storage Application”).
Today’s funding announcement also follows the University joining the UK Government in declaring a “climate emergency”, and reaffirming its commitment to Manchester City Council’s plan to become a zero-carbon city by 2038, 12 years ahead of national targets.
Founded in 2017, the Faraday Institution brings together universities and industry to promote and develop the UK’s contributions to electrical storage technologies. The three recipients of the latest funding award were selected by the Faraday Institution after review by an independent panel of experts and will be completed in March 2021.
Funding for more projects is expected later in 2019.