UK group seeks lithium battery holy grail
Alliance seeks to develop, commercialize solid-state batteries Metal Tech News – August 25, 2021
Last updated 8/24/2021 at 3:28pm
Britishvolt, Oxford University, and five other United Kingdom-based universities, private sector, and government organizations have joined forces to develop world-leading solid-state lithium battery technology for the automotive industry.
"Collaboration between industry, government and our world-leading academic institutions is putting the UK at the forefront of global efforts to develop innovative automotive technologies, such as solid-state batteries," said UK Minister for Investment Lord Gerry Grimstone. "It is the work of our internationally-renowned research and development base, like those brought together by this consortium, that will give us the tools needed to forge a strong and sustainable future for the automotive sector and increase our contribution to combatting climate change."
Solid-state batteries are much like the traditional lithium-ion battery currently being used in EVs and other electronics. As the name suggests, however, solid-state lithium-metal batteries have a solid electrolyte instead of liquid or polymer. As a result, solid-state lithium batteries hold substantially more energy in the same volume and charge in a fraction of the time compared to their traditional lithium-ion counterparts.
"Solid-state is the holy grail of battery solutions," said Britishvolt Chief Technology Officer Allan Paterson. "Solid-state batteries have the potential to increase energy density significantly over battery technology available today and could dramatically, and positively, change the world of electric vehicles. Britishvolt will be at the forefront of commercializing this step-change over the coming years."
Britishvolt is preparing to begin construction of a 30 gigawatt-hour lithium-ion battery factory in Northumberland, UK. This plant is being developed in three 10 GWh stages, with the final phase expected to be completed in 2027. One of the reasons behind this phased approach is to allow Britishvolt to adjust to any technological advancements as it builds out capacity.
This could allow Britishvolt to add solid-state production as it expands.
It is expected that the first solid-state batteries developed will be used in consumer electronics, niche automotive applications, and unmanned aerospace, before being used in broader EV markets.
Faraday Institution, UK's flagship battery research program, forecasts that solid-state is likely to account for 7% of the global consumer electronics battery market and a 4% share of the EV battery market by 2030. Global solid-state battery revenues from sales to EV manufacturers are expected to reach $8 billion by 2030 and then grow rapidly over the next two decades as this promising technology grabs larger shares of the markets.
Faraday played a pivotal role in bringing UK academia and private sector business into the seven-member consortium.
"Our leadership in this venture signals a move towards a role that the Faraday Institution will increasingly play as a trusted convener of significant partnerships between UK industry and academia as a route to commercialize breakthrough science emerging from our research programs to maximize UK economic value," said Faraday Institution CEO Pam Thomas.
The group assembled by Faraday will work toward overcoming the fundamental challenges posed by solid-state battery technology.
The primary challenge is the formation of dendrites, stalagmite-like structures that grow from the lithium metal anode as lithium ions flow from the cathode during charging. These dendrites continue to grow through the electrolyte until they pierce a barrier that separates the anode from the cathode, shorting the battery.
Faraday says its solid-state battery, or SOLBAT, project has made considerable progress in addressing these challenges over the last three years.
The seven-member UK consortium will continue to work toward overcoming these challenges, develop and test prototype batteries, and scale up manufacturing.
"Our newly opened national battery manufacturing scale-up facility is already contracted to scale new cells and battery packs by companies basing their manufacturing centers in the UK," said Ian Whiting, commercial director at the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre. "We're scaling technologies that will be the core products of the UK's emergent gigafactories. But we need to think even further ahead and solid-state battery technology is going to be a big part of that. This collaboration is what is needed to give the UK the edge it needs in creating a center of excellence for solid-state batteries and we're excited to be part of it."
The other members of the UK solid-state battery consortium are the British Research Council's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Emerson & Renwick, Johnson Matthey, and the University of Warwick.