'Nextrode' project could revolutionise battery electrode manufacturing

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The Faraday Institution funded 'Nextrode' project will research ways to make electrodes for Li-ion batteries which unlock the electrochemical potential of their ingredients.

WMG, at the University of Warwick, is one of six university partners in the Nextrode project, which is led by the University of Oxford, alongside six industry partners – including the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre (UKBIC), which will be researching how to make electrodes for Li-ion electric vehicle batteries more efficiently.

Today’s Li-ion batteries are made using a ‘slurry casting’ process, whereby the active materials are mixed in a wet slurry and coated onto thin foils of aluminium or copper, then dried and compressed. This process is highly effective for mass production, but is developed empirically through trial and error, at great cost to the manufacturer.

In this project, WMG will gain greater depth of knowledge in that process with a view to being able to predictively model and optimise it, so that future electrodes can be cheaper, store more energy, and get to market faster. To do this, WMG will use its 'battery scale up' facility, as well as taking data from the UKBIC when it opens next year.

Furthermore, slurry cast electrodes limit the performance of the battery as the active electrochemical materials are uniformly distributed throughout the electrode structure. Research has shown that arranging the materials in a structured way can dramatically improve battery performance, but at present there is no mass-manufacturing route to do so. This project will investigate new manufacturing methods to create structured electrodes in a cost effective way at high manufacturing volumes.

Professor David Greenwood from WMG, University of Warwick, commented, “Battery manufacturing is a critical industry for the UK to grow. It is highly competitive, and to win, we will need excellence in both science and manufacturing. The Nextrode project brings these two elements together to make future Li-ion batteries for electric vehicles more energy efficient and affordable. Our unique research facilities are key to acquiring the knowledge required to deliver a step change in industrial capability.”

Professor Patrick Grant from Oxford University, which will lead project added, “Nextrode aims to strengthen the scientific understanding of existing electrode manufacturing so we can make it more flexible and extract further performance gains, but we will also develop a new generation of manufacturing approaches for ‘smart” electrodes where the different electrode materials are arranged with greater precision and provide even greater performance benefits. We anticipate these benefits could be realised for almost any type of battery chemistry.”