Sheffield Uni leading research project for new-gen lithium-ion batteries

Sheffield Uni leading research project for new-gen lithium-ion batteries
Credit: Mike Flippo

Next-gen lithium-ion batteries are set to be developed at the University of Sheffield which, engineers say, could be used to transform the performance and range of electric vehicles.

The major new collaborative research project is being led by the University of Sheffield and comprises the Universities of Cambridge, Oxford and Lancaster, together with UCL, the Science and Technology Facilities Council and 11 industry partners.

Following the award of £11 million in funding from the Faraday Institution, researchers led by Professor Serena Corr in the University of Sheffield’s Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering are developing lithium-ion batteries with longer lifespans and increased energy density.

The FutureCat project will see the team use a co-ordinated approach to cathode chemistry design, development and discovery to deliver cathodes that hold more charge, are better suited to withstand prolonged cycling and promote ion mobility.

Improved cathode design could also help reduce the dependency of cell manufacturers on cobalt – an element defined by the EU and US as a critical raw material, which is expensive and dangerous to source, with minors often working in deadly conditions.

“Switching to electric vehicles is one way we can help to reduce global emissions. However, if we are to make this change, we need to produce electric vehicles that are capable of travelling further and have longer lasting batteries,” said Professor Serena Corr.

“Lithium-ion batteries are crucial to the performance and range of electric vehicles and developing existing and new cathodes can ultimately enhance battery performance.

“Our research is setting ambitious targets to make fundamental breakthroughs that will put us on the path to commercialising a battery with significant improvements to energy and power densities.

“We are also keen to improve the sustainability of lithium-ion batteries and make them more cost-effective. With the ethical, sustainability and cost concerns surrounding cobalt, our project will investigate alternatives to the traditional cobalt containing cathodes.

“We are investigating a range of new cathode architectures, as well as chemistries, driven by a highly collaborative and interdisciplinary approach.”

In addition to FutureCat, engineers from the University of Sheffield are also research partners in two of four other new research projects announced by the Faraday Institution.

Sheffield engineers will collaborate on a University of Oxford-led project, Nextrode, to revolutionise the way electrodes for lithium-ion batteries are manufactured.

This project aims to usher in a new generation of smart, high performance electrodes, which can also boost the range and performance of electric vehicles.

Sheffield Chemical and Biological Engineering academic, Dr Denis Cumming, will take on the role of project leader with the Nextrode project.