A new research consortium involving Professor Saiful Islam from the University of Bath’s Department of Chemistry has been awarded £6.8 million by the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to explore and develop next-generation lithium batteries.

Building upon the portable revolution

The new Programme Grant will fund a five-year project entitled “Enabling Next-Generation Lithium Batteries” to carry out research on new battery technologies, similar to those that have helped to power the worldwide portable revolution in mobile phones, laptops and tablet computers.

The multidisciplinary team is led by Professor Peter Bruce FRS based at the University of Oxford, and consists of chemistry, engineering and materials groups at the Universities of Bath, Cambridge and Leeds, and at Imperial College London. Bath will receive around £800,000 of the £6.8 million total.

Professor Saiful Islam, from the University’s Department of Chemistry and the Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies (CSCT) said: “Energy storage is a major research challenge of our time. The rechargeable lithium-ion battery has transformed portable electronics and now has a crucial role in electric vehicles to cut carbon emissions and in grid storage of electricity from renewable sources such as wind and solar.”

Professor Islam’s research, which won the Royal Society’s Wolfson Research Merit Award (2013-18), uses powerful computer modelling techniques to help understand battery materials on the atomic scale that can be tested in experimental labs.

Boosting green energy storage

New generations of lithium-ion batteries are required that deliver enhanced combinations of energy storage, cost, safety and calendar life. The new consortium will use a collaborative programme of underpinning science to engineer solutions that tackle these hurdles.

Chemists, materials modellers and manufacturing engineers will work together in close contact with supply chain companies and end-users. The research spans step-changes in lithium-ion batteries as well as more radical ideas such as the lithium-air battery.

Professor Islam added: “Materials performance lies at the heart of the development of green energy technologies. Our research at Bath will involve modelling and developing new materials that can be integrated into lab-scale battery devices thus demonstrating our key advances.”

The programme also has strong engagement with industrial partners including Jaguar Land Rover, EDF Energy, Johnson Matthey, Nokia and Sharp.

Professor Bruce, Wolfson Chair in Materials at the University of Oxford, added: “The multidisciplinary team will work with our industrial partners to accelerate the pull-through of basic research to practical prototypes of future battery systems for electrical vehicles or grid-scale storage. An important aspect of the project will be a new cohort of trained researchers in the green energy sector.”

The University is a major centre for energy research, which includes the Institute for Sustainable Energy & the Environment (I-SEE) and the Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies (CSCT).

98 per cent of chemistry research from the University of Bath was judged to be internationally excellent by the in the recent independently-assessed Research Excellence Framework 2014. The Department of Chemistry was ranked fourth in the UK for research impact.