News, Events, Media

Faraday Institution Undergraduate Summer Experience (FUSE) placements now open!

Are you an undergraduate and want to see what it’s like working with batteries? Are you interested in finding out more about how research works in academia? If so, come and join us for a FUSE internship this summer. Each paid internship lasts for eight weeks across a range of battery related topics. The full list along with closing dates can be found on the Faraday Institution website. The closing date for Degradation projects is 17 April 2023.

Faraday Institution Early Career Researcher Conference Degradation project poster winner!

Congratulations Degradation PhD student Daisy Thornton on winning the best poster at the recent FI Early Career Researcher Conference in the Research Progress and Findings category!

Daisy presented interesting work on probing degradation using a novel electrochemical mass spectrometry technique. The technique works by probing gas evolution that occurs during degradation and Daisy shows that she is able to use this to shed light on degradation mechanisms. The judges were impressed by the work involved in this project and use of complimentary characterisation techniques. The poster uses custom made images to effectively communicate ideas. Daisy presented the work in an especially engaging and enthusiastic way.

Well done Daisy!

New spin-out company launched!

Illumion, a new spin-out company commercialising a novel microscopy tool developed to help understand and develop new battery materials has launched!

Developed by Degradation investigators Prof Dame Clare Grey, Dr Akshay Rao, FI Entrepreneurial Fellow Dr Christoph Schnedermann and Degradation project affiliate PhD Alice Merryweather at the University of Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory and Yusuf Hamied Chemistry Department as an output of a Faraday Institution battery characterisation project, the optical microscopy technique could prove a vital tool for battery research. Find out more from the FI or on the company’s own website.

Congratulations to all involved!

Brett Lucht reviews project paper in ACS

Recently our ACS Energy Letters paper was highlighted in a recent “Energy Spotlight” by Brett Lucht: Onset Potential for Electrolyte Oxidation and Ni-Rich Cathode Degradation in Lithium-Ion Batteries.

Lucht writes: Current lithium-ion batteries (LIB) have excellent cycling stability under standard operating conditions. As the technology has developed, the desire for increased energy density has driven interest in cathode materials with both higher capacity and higher cutoff potential. However, this has resulted in a decrease in cycle life and calendar life and an increase in safety concerns. One of the factors contributing to this performance fade is the reaction of the electrolyte with the surface of cathode materials. However, a strong understanding of the role of electrolytes in the performance fade of cathode materials has been elusive.

Most current interest is directed at using LiNixMnyCozO2 (NMC) cathodes with high nickel content for advanced LIBs. Increased Ni content is desirable since it results in increased capacity, but unfortunately, higher nickel content also reduces cycling stability. Additionally, there is an interest in increasing the energy density of NMC cathodes by increasing the voltage window from 4.2 to 4.4 V vs Li/Li+. However, cycling NMC cathodes to higher potential also results in a decrease in cycling stability.

In their recent work, Grey, De Volder, and co-workers have provided significant insight into the detrimental reactions of the electrolyte with NMC cathodes. In particular, they have provided a detailed understanding of the role of ethylene carbonate (EC), a common component of LIB electrolytes, in oxygen loss reactions from the NMC cathodes. The presence of EC enhances oxygen loss from the cathode at a high potential, leading to more electrolyte decomposition, transition metal dissolution, surface reconstruction, and impedance growth. The importance of EC in these detrimental processes indicates that the coordination strength of the solvent with the cathode surface is critical. However, EC is also an important component of the electrolyte for the generation of the solid electrolyte interphase (SEI) on the graphitic anode of LIBs. The irony of the importance of EC in anode SEI stability, despite simultaneously leading to reduced cathode surface stability, suggests that further electrolyte development will likely be needed to advance LIBs. These important results will assist other researchers with the development of materials-based solutions, including novel electrolyte formulations or NMC surface coatings designed to inhibit oxygen release from NMC cathodes.

Project PhD student wins EMAG poster prize!

May Ching Lai, affiliate PhD student, won best poster at the Electron Microscopy and Analysis Group meeting on Electron microscopy studies on concentration gradient Ni-rich cathodes for lithium-ion batteries.

Congratulations May Ching!

Professor Dame Clare Grey

We are delighted that in the Queen’s birthday honours list last week it was announced that Professor Clare Grey has been appointed as Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) for services to science.  The longer citation reads

Her scientific breakthroughs underpin 25 years of global progress in rechargeable electric batteries, which have led to mobile phones, laptops and electric vehicles. Clare Grey is a major figure in the UK science landscape whose work on lithium-ion batteries will affect the development of sustainable transport and energy systems. She was a member of the Royal Society’s Future Leaders, African Independent Research fellowships program, and continues to work, especially in Nigeria, as a mentor and enables research visits to her group in Cambridge. Her work has been internationally recognised most recently by the award of the Körber European Science Prize 2021 for her ground-breaking research on the optimisation of batteries using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy.

Congratulations Clare!

Research Associate role available – University of Liverpool

Dr B. Layla Mehdi (blmehdi at at the University of Liverpool is seeking an individual with a background in transmission electron microscopy, electrochemistry or energy storage. The recently developed method of operando electrochemical scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM) will be employed to study the fundamental processes that lead to battery degradation and to develop processes that can be used to recycle Li battery components. The goal is to make transformative advances in battery development by using the unique direct visualisation capabilities of the STEM to directly identify and quantify the key electrochemical processes dominating the performance of energy storage systems. The post is available on a fixed term basis, until 31st March 2023. Closing date 28 June 2022.

Research Associate role available – University of Leicester

Former Degradation project member Dr Wes Dose (wd92 at has a research associate position available at the University of Leicester investigating new electrolytes for Li-ion batteries. Closing date 12 June 2022.

ACS Disruptors and Innovators Prize 2022 winner Prof Clare Grey

Congratulations to Professor Clare Grey in winning the ACS Disruptors and Innovators Prize 2022! Awarded in recognition of her pioneering work in fundamental studies of rechargeable battery materials using solid-state NMR methodology, Prof Grey will accept her prize at an upcoming virtual symposium, during which she will present a Disruptors Lecture. More details can be found on the ACS Central Science Disruptors & Innovators Prize website.

Faraday Institution PhDs available now!

Instrumented Cells for Degradation and Thermal Runaway Studies with Prof Louis Piper – closing date August 2022, but apply now!

Novel solid/liquid surface electrochemistry methods for a safer lithium-ion battery: dendrite and “dead” lithium prevention with Profs Stuart Clarke and Clare Grey – NOW CLOSED
Expanding the Range of Sodium Electrolytes- Bigger anions, Supramolecular Size Control, and Ionic Liquids with Profs Clare Grey and Dom Wright – NOW CLOSED

Paid summer internships available now!

Eight week in-person and hybrid paid Faraday Undergraduate Summer Experience (FUSE) placements are open for applications. The Degradation project has places available at Imperial College London and the Universities of Cambridge and Nottingham. Deadlines vary, but range from 19-22 April 2022.

First principles study of degradation in NMC cathodesHrishit BanerjeeUniversity of CambridgeHybrid
Mechanical Properties of Nickel-rich Cathode MaterialsDavid HallUniversity of CambridgeIn-person
Can Li-air batteries operate via moisture-resistant chemistry?Israel TempranoUniversity of CambridgeIn-person
Testing the Effect of Conditions on Lithium-Ion BatteryBethan DaviesImperial College LondonIn-person
Cu and Al current collector corrosion in state-of-the-art Li-ion battery coin cellsAigerim OmirkhanImperial College LondonIn-person
Rate of singlet oxygen reaction with carbonate solventsLee JohnsonUniversity of NottinghamIn-person

Faraday Institution annual conference Degradation project prize winners!

Congratulations to Faraday Undergraduate Summer Experience (FUSE) intern Beatrice Ricci on receiving a highly commended for her poster entitled Exploring Beyond Lithium Electrolytes – Computational screening for potential sodium electrolytes.

During the ECR day, we had two presentation winners. PhD candidate Alice Merryweather won the Prize for Communication and Audience Engagement for her talk on Operando monitoring of single-particle kinetic state-of-charge heterogeneities and cracking in high-rate Li-ion anodes.
The judges commented: Alice’s communication style was very clear and avoided unnecessary jargon, making the complex work accessible to everyone. The introduction clearly set the impact and context for the work. The video demonstrations of the work presented an engaging and compelling argument.

This success was repeated with Dr Svetlana Menkin winning the Prize for Scientific Content and Research for her talk on Interface evolution and metal plating in ultra-concentrated NaPF6 electrolytes.
The judges commented: The challenges of Svetlana’s research on electrolytes (particularly SEI) for sodium cells were thoughtfully presented and corresponding mitigation strategies/methods were articulated well. This work could contribute to improving applications of sodium-ion cells, and is therefore has high potential impact, which was well described in the talk.

We’re also very pleased to announce PhD candidate Victor Riesgo Gonzalez won the prize for Best Poster and Flash talk – Science Content and Context on the Effect of aluminium oxide coating on the degradation of NMC811 cathodes.
The judges commented: Victor’s poster introduces well organised and high-quality scientific content with descriptions that are understandable by experts and non-experts alike. The poster demonstrates that the scientific findings of this research can be commercialised to contribute to developing a new generation of Li-ion batteries with a longer life cycle.

Congratulations to them all!

16-18 November 2021 – Faraday Institution annual conference

This week the Faraday Institution held its annual conference. The Early Career Researcher day (16th, open to FI members only) had Dr David Li and Alice Merryweather from the Degradation project presenting in the ‘New approaches to extend battery life’ session.

Wednesday 17th saw Prof Clare Grey discuss the Degradation project alongside other FI projects.
This was followed later in the afternoon by Dr Tom Heenan (FI entrepreneurial fellow, 1530 – 1700) in the ‘Discovery and design towards higher performing, lower cost batteries‘ session.

Thursday 18th saw Dr Chris Schnedermann and Dr Nuria Garcia-Araez present during the ‘Safety and performance from sensing, prediction and characterisation‘ session.

October 2021 – In person consortium meeting held

On 22 October we held our first in person/hybrid meeting in more than 18 months at Robinson College, Cambridge. Adhering to social distancing and covid-safe measures as much as possible, we opened with a careers training session for PhD students and PDRAs hosted by Charlie Ashley-Roberts from Your Time to Grow. Charlie lead the group to consider what they wanted from the next steps in their careers and shared many hints and tips to support future job searches.

Due to not having met in person for so long and with new members of the consortium joining for years 4 and 5, we enjoyed a traditional ice-breaker activity. Playing ‘get to know you bingo’, instead of trying to find someone who, for example, had broken a bone, attendees were tasked with finding people who were involved in different parts of the project. This interaction between everyone really helped aid discussion.

The rest of the day was spent with presentations and discussion of topics from across the project, including some in small groups. Excellent debate was had and has helped to shape the future questions the consortium seeks to answer.

July 2021 – Professor Clare Grey awarded €1 million Körber Prize

Clare has pioneered the optimisation of batteries with the help of NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) spectroscopy – similar to MRI technology – a method that allows non-invasive insights into the inner workings of batteries.

The Körber European Science Prize 2021 will be presented to Professor Clare Grey on 10 September 2021 in the Great Festival Hall of Hamburg City Hall. Since 1985, the Körber Foundation has honoured a breakthrough in the physical or life sciences in Europe with the Körber Prize. It is awarded for excellent and innovative research approaches with high application potential.

More information can be found here and here.

May 2021 – PhD studentship available

Prof Clare Grey has Faraday Institution funding for a PhD studentship in battery materials starting October 2021 or January 2022. The project will involve developing a range of artificial Solid Electrolyte Interface (SEI) strategies based on the coating of graphitic and Si electrodes with elastic and/or self-healing layers which inhibit electrolyte degradation. The strategy will be to:
(i) pre-coat the electrodes with polymeric materials that can adapt to volumetric changes, and
(ii) develop systems in which artificial SEI precursors combined with battery electrolytes produce self-healing SEIs.

This is now closed.

May 2021 – Oxford PDRA awarded fellowship

Dr Erik Björkland, University of Oxford, has been awarded a Marie Skłodowska Curie fellowship. This is awarded for performing research in a different country than where the person has previously lived, focusing on career development and learning of new skills.

The award was received in order to work with lithium ion batteries, where focus will be to improve the performance and sustainability through the use of in-situ measurements giving understanding about the side reactions that limit cycle life and how they can be mitigated. It will also be investigated why these reactions become more severe in higher capacity cathode materials and how it is possible to effectively recycle/regenerate the materials at their end-of-life without losing performance.

Congratulations Erik!

1 April 2021 – Phase 2 kicks off

As phase 1 draws to a close, phase 2 has kicked off in earnest. We have welcomed Louis Piper (Warwick Materials Group, University of Warwick) as our new cathode work package leader. Our new co-investigators include Vikram Deshpande, Norman Fleck, Akshay Rao (University of Cambridge), Beverley Inkson (University of Sheffield) and Andrew Morris (University of Birmingham).

16 March 2021 – The Naked Scientists – What’s the difference between batteries?

Gareth Hinds from the National Physical Laboratory, and David Hall and Didi Rinkel from Cambridge University appeared on The Naked Scientists podcast to explain why not all batteries are rechargeable. David is one of project leads, Didi is a PhD student affiliated to the Degradation project and Gareth works across many Faraday Institution projects supporting best practice in standards of measurements.

4 December 2020 – Industry Showcase

On Friday 4 December we hosted our industry showcase, demonstrating our cutting-edge, industry relevant work. We had presentations from seven PDRAs and five industry partners.
If you are from industry and have an opinion on specific stress conditions we could be testing or battery design we should be working with, please get in contact.

1 December 2020 – Centre for Science and Policy podcast

In November Prof Clare Grey was invited to speak on the University of Cambridge Centre for Science and Policy podcast. Along with cosmologist Professor Lord Martin Rees Clare discussed how the UK can take a leadership role in fostering innovation while building collaborations with other countries, and what we can learn from the example of the Faraday Institution’s work on energy storage.

Clare Grey, Centre for Science and Policy (CSaP) podcast – Energy Storage and Fostering Innovation, United Kingdom.

24 -26 November 2020 – Faraday Institution Annual Conference

Congratulations to Degradation consortium FUSE student, Miles Pemberton, who won best poster at the Faraday conference for scientific content and context for A computational investigation of organic redox flow battery electrolytes.
The judges said:
This poster does extremely well to condense some quite complex computational methods and a lot of data into something that is succinct and understandable. It does an excellent job of making the calculations understandable to the wider scientific audience whilst showing real world relevance. The results serve as a rational for the down selection of electrolytes for redox flow batteries and the poster does a good job of justifying this. The motivation for the project is outlined concisely and clearly roots the project in its wider context. The findings are then displayed in a manner that is both visually appealing and draws attention to key results. Miles shows a strong understanding of the significance of the work and what might be the next steps in this project.

3rd March 2020 – BBC Radio programme, The Naked Scientists (Live and as podcast)

David Hall was interviewed on the programme “Electric Cars: Worth the Charge?”. He explains in layperson’s terms how car batteries work and degrade over time and the current dependence on lithium ion batteries. Battery management systems that aim to regulate the potentially damaging effects of fast charging are also discussed.

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