Silicon anode project seeks to extend EV range

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A £7million award from Innovate UK as part of the Faraday Battery Challenge is funding a project to develop significantly better materials for Li-ion batteries. The work, featuring silicon anode pioneer Nexeon, is described as an essential step to enabling electric vehicles (EVs) to have a range of more than 400 miles.

The SUNRISE project is looking to develop better battery materials based on silicon as a replacement for carbon in the cell anode, and to optimise cell designs for automotive applications.

Nexeon will lead the silicon material development and scale-up stages of the project, while polymer specialist Synthomer will lead the development of a next generation polymer binder optimised to work with silicon and to ensure anode/binder cohesion during a lifetime of charges. Meanwhile, Nexeon and UCL will lead the work on material characterisation and cell performance.

“The biggest problems facing EVs – range anxiety, cost, charge time or charging station availability – are almost all related to limitations of the batteries,” said Nexeon’s CEO Dr Scott Brown. “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.”

Silicon is being adopted as a partial replacement for carbon in battery anodes, typically up to a level of 10%, but problems caused by expansion during charging and discharging remain issues. SUNRISE is said to address the silicon expansion and binder system issues and to allow more silicon to be used. This latter feature will increase the cell’s energy density. Meanwhile, silicon anode materials with a polymer binder can be used as a ‘drop-in’ replacement for current graphite anode systems.

The Faraday Battery Challenge, announced in July 2017, will see £246m invested over four years to ensure the UK leads the world in the design, development and manufacture of batteries for EVs.