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Aston University gets GBP £443k grant to enhance lithium-ion battery safety
Wed, 28th Feb 2024

Aston University has been awarded a grant of GBP £443,058 from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), with the aim of making lithium-ion batteries, most often used in electric vehicles and electronics, which are safer and more environmentally friendly. The focus of the initiative is the exploration and development of gel electrolyte materials.

Lithium-ion batteries currently require multiple complex processing steps during assembly. These often involve the use of flammable solvents and materials derived from fossil fuels, which offer poor thermal and chemical stability. By using renewable ionogels, which conduct electrically charged ions, in place of the current harmful and flammable components, the research team aims to create batteries that are less prone to leakage.

The team spearheading this innovative project is led by Dr Matt Derry, a lecturer in chemistry at Aston University's College of Engineering and Physical Sciences. "There is a need to identify new solutions for sustainable energy storage but one of the biggest barriers to the uptake of renewable energy is the lack of scalable methods of storing electrical energy," he said, underlining the importance of this research in the pursuit of more sustainable energy production.

"We will create recyclable gel electrolytes using non-harmful, non-flammable and renewably sourced materials for next-generation battery technologies," Dr Derry affirmed. The novel approach to developing these gel electrolytes has been expounded in a new paper published in Chemical Science, the Royal Society of Chemistry's flagship open-access journal.

Reflecting on the potential influence of the research, Dr Derry asserted, "This transformative research programme will deliver new sustainable, responsive ionogel materials which are easier to manufacture." He made clear that this not only addressed the underutilisation of renewable energy methods but also brought the UK closer to its goal of achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

He elaborated, "Given the desperate need for sustainable energy storage solutions, as recognised by the UN with Sustainable Development Goal 7 on affordable and clean energy, the proposed research is timely and impactful." The research project commences on the 1st of March 2024 and is expected to conclude in February 2027.

Aston University also highlighted the career progression opportunities created by this groundbreaking work, with PhD student Georgia Maitland, who contributed to the scientific paper set to be employed as a post-doctoral researcher at the university as a result of her involvement in the research.

For over a century, Aston University's enduring purpose has been to improve the world through education, research and innovation by enabling its students to succeed in work and life and supporting its communities to thrive economically, socially and culturally. Aston University's history has been intertwined with the history of Birmingham, a city that once was the heartland of the Industrial Revolution and the world's manufacturing powerhouse.

Born out of the First Industrial Revolution, Aston University has a distinct heritage dating back to our formation as the School of Metallurgy in 1875, the first UK College of Technology in 1951, gaining university status by Royal Charter in 1966, and becoming The Guardian University of the Year in 2020.