Battery materials development company, Nexeon, and its partners UCL and Synthomer have been awarded £7m in Innovate UK funding for a project to develop better materials for Li-ion batteries.
The project, named SUNRISE (after Synthomer, UCL & Nexeon’s Rapid Improvement in the Storage of Energy), will develop better battery materials based on silicon as a replacement for carbon in the cell anode, and optimise cell designs for automotive application.
Innovate UK will fund the majority of the £10m project as part of the Faraday Battery Challenge. SUNRISE will also enhance the UK’s position as a centre of excellence for battery development, and support the materials manufacturing supply chain in the UK.
Nexeon will lead the silicon material development and scale-up stages of the SUNRISE project, while leading polymer company Synthomer will lead the development of a next generation polymer binder optimised to work with silicon, and ensure anode/binder cohesion during a lifetime of charges.
Nexeon and University College London (UCL) will jointly lead the work on material characterisation and cell performance.
Silicon is currently being adopted as a partial replacement for carbon in battery anodes, typically up to the level of 10% replacement, but problems caused by expansion when the cells are charged and discharged remain a hurdle.
Project SUNRISE addresses the silicon expansion and binder system issues, and allows more silicon to be used, further increasing the energy density that can be achieved in the cell.
Innovative silicon anode material with a polymer binder represents a ‘drop-in’ replacement for current graphite anode systems. Lower cost and better performance power sources will reduce the time required for EVs to achieve mass adoption.
Nexeon’s CEO, Dr Scott Brown, said: “The biggest problems facing EVs – range anxiety, cost, charge time or charging station availability – are almost all related to limitations of the batteries.
“Silicon anodes are now well established on the technology road maps of major automotive OEMs and cell makers, and Nexeon has received support from UK and global OEMs, several of whom will be involved in this project as it develops.”
The Faraday Battery Challenge was announced in July, and is the first in a series of Research Challenges managed by Innovate UK as part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF).
The Faraday Battery Challenge is an investment of £246m over four years to help UK businesses seize the opportunities presented by the transition to a low carbon economy, to ensure the UK leads the world in the design, development and manufacture of batteries for electric vehicles.
Success in creating a viable battery supply chain will lead to the creation of hundreds of UK jobs, according to Innovate UK.