Plant & Works Engineering
Funding awarded to accelerate battery research, supporting ambitions of a cleaner, greener future
Published:  03 April, 2023

Birmingham researchers developing novel battery recycling techniques have been awarded funding by the Faraday Institution, as part of a £29m package to re-focus and accelerate key battery research projects, which have been reshaped to focus on areas with the greatest potential for success.

Four of the six projects funded involve the University of Birmingham, and these include the Reuse and Recycling of Lithium Ion Batteries (ReLIB) project.

Led by Professor Paul Anderson, Co-Director of the Birmingham Centre for Strategic Elements and Critical Materials at Birmingham’s School of Chemistry, ReLIB aims to develop and scale novel recycling technologies that recover valuable materials from end-of-life lithium ion batteries used to power electric vehicles.

The ReLIB project also draws on the expertise of researchers at the universities of Edinburgh, Imperial College London, Leicester, Newcastle and University College London, and aims to improve current industry practices to beyond 90% efficiency.

ReLIB has already seen considerable success, filing several patents since the project started.

In the next five years ReLIB researchers will develop, improve and scale technologies, and are looking for long-term commercial partners to participate in pilot studies, incorporate these technologies in their existing processes, or collaborate on further research.

ReLIB Researchers will continue to explore processes to recover valuable and non-valuable materials from waste streams via novel electrode extraction, delamination, binder recovery, leaching, electrolyte recovery and regeneration, and biological recovery techniques, in many cases proving processes at larger scale than previously achieved.

Professor Anderson said: “Despite a proliferation of companies collecting and processing lithium ion batteries for recycling it remains uneconomic to recover most of the components, and materials recovery rates remain low. With the support of this additional funding the ReLiB project will be able to focus efforts on providing effective recycling routes for hard to recycle components and valorizing low value recovered material streams.”

Professor Pam Thomas, CEO of the Faraday Institution said: “The Faraday Institution is committed to identifying and investing in the most promising and impactful battery research initiatives. This project refocusing is an important part of that process, and allows us to direct even more effort towards those areas of research that offer the maximum potential of delivering commercial, societal and environment impact.”

Researchers from the Birmingham Centre for Strategic Elements and Critical Materials will continue to support the work of the Faraday Institution wich boasts over 500 researchers from 27 universities and 85+ industry partners, to drive innovation in energy storage technologies that will transform the UK energy landscape from transportation to the grid.

Further Faraday projects supported by Birmingham

Researchers from the Birmingham Centre for Strategic Elements and Critical Materials are will also support the work of the Faraday Institution in three further projects that were awarded funding.

Firstly, the Faraday Institution’s project on extending battery life, a centre of excellence in understanding degradation mechanisms in lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide NMC811-graphite batteries, is expanding to investigate other systems of industrial interest. Researchers will apply their knowledge and new characterisation techniques to investigate the degradation of systems comprising silicon-rich composites and those using anode-free architectures. On the cathode side, the project will investigate the higher nickel content NMC, lithium manganese iron phosphate (LMFP), and tungsten-doped lithium nickel oxide (LNO). Tungsten-doped LNO is a promising material with high capacity that was developed by the Faraday Institution’s FutureCat project. Researchers will also investigate new electrolyte formulations compatible with the anode and cathodes under study and their impact on degradation.

The project will also include new pouch cell fabrication activity at Warwick Manufacturing Group, which will allow researchers from across the project to access reproducible and reliable cells to perform degradation studies at more industrial-relevant scales. Pouch cells to be fabricated will include tungsten-doped LNO cathode developed at the University of Sheffield.

The project is led by Co-Principal Investigators Professor Dame Clare Grey, University of Cambridge, and Professor Louis Piper of WMG. The team also includes researchers from the Universities of Birmingham, Newcastle, Oxford, Sheffield, Southampton, Imperial College London and University College London.

Secondly, Battery Modelling: the Multi-scale Modelling project has been refocused to further develop parameterisation methods and techniques for next-generation models and modelling of batteries beyond lithium-ion. Researchers will focus on methods to determine accurate input parameters for models that define ageing and that accurately represent what happens at battery interfaces, which could support the growth of the Battery Parameterisation eXchange (BPX) standard being formed by the Faraday Institution.

Additionally, the project aims to grow the capabilities of PyBaMM, an open-source physics-based model, to enable better health and performance prediction at cell and pack level, linking to commercial software, and growing the PyBaMM community. The project will also develop ‘PRISM’, an industry-focused equivalent circuit model framework integrated with and complementary to PyBaMM, which will incorporate machine learning approaches.

The project is led by Professor Gregory Offer, Imperial College London, with additional researchers from the universities of Birmingham, Bristol, Oxford, Portsmouth, Southampton and Warwick.

The refocused Lithium-sulfur Batteries (LiSTAR) project will place increased emphasis on the development and validation of lithium-sulfur (Li-S) pouch cells using the most promising anode, cathode and electrolyte components previously tested individually at a coin cell level. The project will continue to improve the performance of individual cell components, but with a narrowed focus on maximising the energy density and lifetime of cells using the best performing materials identified in the project’s first phase. The project will also work on the development of cathode architectures and investigate the cathode/electrolyte interfaces of quasi-solid-state Li-S technology with the aim of improving cycle life, in a complementary research area to the industry sprint project with OXLiD. Additionally, the project will work on developing a solid-state composite cathode for an all-solid-state Li-S battery, as well as consolidating the suite of dedicated diagnostic and characterisation tools for understanding Li-S performance. A new addition to the project is research at the system level; a battery management system suitable for Li-S technology will be developed, with a focus on early applications like aerospace and weight critical propulsion.

LiSTAR is led by Prof Paul Shearing of UCL, with additional researchers from the universities of Birmingham, Cambridge, Coventry, Cranfield, Imperial College London, Nottingham, Oxford, Southampton and Surrey.