Essex, UK – Materials supplier Synthomer PLC and partners University College of London (UCL) and Nexeon Ltd, have been awarded £7 million (€8 million) in Innovative UK funding for a project to develop better materials for Li-ion batteries.
In a 5 Jan statement, Synthomer said the work was "an essential step" to achieving electric vehicles (EVs) with a range of 400 miles and above.
The project is called SUNRISE, which stands for Synthomer, UCL and Nexeon’s Rapid Improvement in the Storage of Energy.
Innovate UK will fund the majority of the £10 million project as part of a Faraday Challenge.
The partners aim to develop battery materials based on silicon as a replacement for carbon in the cell anode. They will also seek to optimise cell designs for automotive applications.
Nexeon will lead the silicon material development and scale-up stages of the SUNRISE project.
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 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.
However, problems caused by expansion when the cells are charged and discharged remain a hurdle.
The SUNRISE project will address the silicon expansion and binder system issues, and allow more silicon to be used.
This will increase the energy density that can be achieved in the cell.
Silicon anode material with a polymer binder can be a “drop-in” replacement for current graphite anode systems, due to the lower cost and better performance, said Synthomer.
“The challenges in developing the next generation of range enabling EV battery technology creates new opportunities for partners in the material supply chain”, said Dr. Robin Harrison, Synthomer’s global innovation director.
Also commenting on the project, Nexeon CEO Dr Scott Brown said the biggest problems facing EVs, including range anxiety, cost and charge time, were 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,” he concluded.