Battery research project involving Leicester receives fresh investment from Faraday Institution

Scientists from the University of Leicester are part of a team investigating ways to better recycle batteries to help the switch to electric cars, as part of a project that has received over £700,000 funding.

The Faraday Institution, a leader in energy storage research, has announced a £29 million investment in six key battery research projects aimed at delivering commercial impact. These existing projects on extending battery life, battery modelling, recycling and reuse, safety, solid-state batteries, and lithium-sulfur batteries, have been reshaped to focus on the areas with the greatest potential for success.

Research in these six areas will progress over the next two years to 31 March 2025.

The University of Leicester scientists will lend their expertise to the Recycling and Reuse (ReLiB) project, which will develop, improve and scale recycling technologies and transition them to industry. The project is developing cutting-edge diagnostic and decision-making methodologies (linking to battery passports) to optimise and automate pack handling logistics that will enable autonomous decision making at end of first life to recycle or reuse in a second-life application such as on the grid. The project’s aim is to improve current industry practices to beyond 90% efficiency and add value through improved purity of recovered materials and re-engineer them to new uses. 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.

Led by the University of Birmingham, ReLiB also draws on the expertise of researchers at the universities of Leicester, Edinburgh, Imperial College London, Newcastle and UCL.

Professor Andy Abbott from the University of Leicester Department of Chemistry said: “We are pleased to be taking part in the ReLiB3 project. The previous project has made significant advances in developing new protocols for recycling lithium ion batteries, particularly those found in electric vehicles. The project has developed a roadmap for battery recycling and published several articles on battery design for easier recycle, protocols to change the battery chemistry and a novel ultrasonic method to rapidly delaminate battery electrodes.

“The new project will extend these studies and develop new battery materials as part of the UK’s efforts to electrify its car production industry. Some of the technologies developed in ReLiB are being scaled up in another new project funded by nearly £300,000 from the Faraday Battery Challenge with partners including the University of Birmingham, Ecoshred, Ichonichem and Cornish Lithium.”

With over 500 researchers from 27 universities and 85+ industry partners, the Faraday Institution continues to drive innovation in energy storage technologies that will transform the UK energy landscape from transportation to the grid.

Professor Pam Thomas, CEO, Faraday Institution, commented: “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 societal, environmental, and commercial impact.”

Business and Trade Minister Nusrat Ghani said: “Growing the battery industry is vital to positioning the UK as the best location in the world to manufacture electric vehicles.

“This funding will help businesses become more innovative and productive, helping to create more skilled, high-wage jobs across the UK, future-proofing our economy and supporting our ambition towards a cleaner, greener future.”

As part of this project refocusing and its ongoing efforts to drive impact in energy storage research, the Faraday Institution recently issued an open call for short, costed proposals for new research topics with tightly defined scopes that complement its core research projects. The list of successful applicants is found here and new research areas have been integrated into the projects. The round was highly competitive with 62 proposals submitted.

James Gaade, Research Programme Director commented: “We congratulate the co-investigators who were successful in bidding in the competitive process. They are from 10 universities, three of which - Cranfield, Bristol and King’s College London - are new to Faraday Institution core projects. We particularly congratulate Newcastle University who will lead three new work areas in the SOLBAT, ReLiB and Degradation projects.”

The funding for these projects came from the Faraday Battery Challenge, delivered by Innovate UK for UK Research and Innovation.

The reshaping of the projects was a thorough process that involved revision of the scope of existing research areas, an open call for proposals in new research areas and input from senior researchers, the Faraday Institution’s expert panel, and a panel of internationally recognised independent experts from academia and industry. The focus was on how to enhance the UK’s position in electrochemical energy storage research and make UK industry more competitive, building on the progress made over the past five years.

Additionally, the Faraday Institution research programme includes four other large, coordinated research projects on next generation cathode materials, electrode manufacturing, and sodium-ion batteries, which are undergoing a similar refocusing process and the outcome of which will be announced in the autumn of 2023.