Lancaster to help develop next generation of batteries

Professor Oleg Kolosov and Dr Nuria Tapia-Ruiz
Professor Oleg Kolosov and Dr Nuria Tapia-Ruiz

Lancaster researchers are at the forefront of UK efforts to develop the next generation of battery technologies.

Academics from Lancaster’s Departments of Chemistry and Physics and the Energy Lancaster research group are part of teams of researchers across the UK that will develop novel sodium-ion batteries as well as discover the next generation of cathode materials for lithium-ion batteries.

The new research projects form part of a £55 million investment into energy storage research by The Faraday Institution.

The investment will facilitate improvements in batteries used for transport and energy grid storage to improve performance and bring down costs of products.

The NEXGENNA project, which involves four Lancaster University researchers, will accelerate the development of sodium-ion battery technology. By taking a multi-disciplinary approach, incorporating fundamental chemistry right through to considerations for scale-up and manufacturing of cells, this project will help position the UK as the world-leader in sodium-ion batteries.

Led by the University of St Andrews, the NEXGENNA project aims to develop a safe sodium ion battery with high performance, low cost and a long cycle life.

Dr Nuria Tapia-Ruiz, Lecturer at Lancaster University’s Department of Chemistry, member of Energy Lancaster, and joint project leader of NEXGENNA, said: “Sodium-ion batteries are an excellent choice in terms of cost, safety and, importantly, there is an abundance of their raw materials. Sodium-ion batteries can be a powerful alternative to complement existing lithium-ion technology given the concerns of lithium supply shortages and its high demand due, in part, to the growing number of electric vehicles.

“Sodium energy storage is strategically attractive for large-scale applications such as grid energy storage, where the operation cost and longevity of the battery are the most important aspects to consider. This technology may easily pave the way towards the use of renewable energies as a primary source of energy.” 

This project also involves Dr John Griffin, Dr Stijn Mertens and Professor Oleg Kolosov, from Lancaster University, as well as partners from the University of Sheffield, UCL, the University of Cambridge and Science and Technology Facilities Council Laboratories.

Dr Tapia-Ruiz and Dr Griffin are also involved in the FutureCat programme. This research project, which is led by the University of Sheffield, will deliver cathodes that hold more charge, that are better suited to withstand prolonged cycling and promote ion mobility, while reducing manufacturers’ dependency on cobalt.

Dr Tapia-Ruiz said: “We are very excited about being part of this very ambitious and multidisciplinary project, which will help delivering the next generation of cathode materials for lithium-ion batteries. Our close links with industrial partners in the project will help fast-track the commercialisation of these in batteries for electric vehicles.”  

FutureCat also involves researchers from the University of Cambridge, UCL, the University of Oxford and the Science and Technology Facilities Council.

The projects were selected after consultation with industry, academia, local and central government and other stakeholders. Industrial partners with work closely with university partners during the duration of the research projects, ensuring research outputs meet the needs of UK business.

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.

“Our research to improve this web of battery performance indicators are being researched by, 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.”

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 Faraday Institution is the UK’s independent institute for electrochemical energy storage science and technology.

The first phase of the Faraday Institution is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) as part of UK Research and Innovation through the Government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

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