There is a need for accurate battery models, incorporating the latest insights from the physics, electrochemistry and engineering of lithium ion batteries for electric vehicles. This project brings together expertise across all length scales, from atoms and molecules right up to a whole battery pack, to design simulations which will enable us to understand how the length scales relate to each other, predict battery performance and lifetime under a range of conditions and, ultimately, design better batteries.
The project is structured into five Expeditions, each working on a particular research challenge, and five Cross-Cutting Activities, which provide specialised expertise across all Expeditions. This structure is laid out below.
The Multiscale Modelling project brings together world-leading battery experts with a broad set of skills at every level to build the critical bridge between science and engineering, working alongside UK industry to ensure that the work is innovative and delivers high impact. This consortium uniquely blends theoreticians with modellers, mathematicians and experimentalists, ensuring that the models developed are scientifically rigorous, computationally efficient and experimentally validated in parallel, to maintain a high degree of usefulness and accuracy. The first challenges to be tackled include fast-charging of batteries, and low temperature operation and thermal management of cells within battery packs.
Accurate models enable us to predict battery behaviour, understand the barriers to performance and design batteries and battery materials which help us to overcome these barriers.
To simulate an EV battery pack, we need to consider a range of length scales, from the nanoscale, where atoms interact, right up to the macroscale of a complete pack and its electronic control mechanisms. In addition, a variety of time scales need to be considered, in order to assess atomic processes at the nanosecond through to long-term degradation occurring over years. Battery simulations and design tools exist at each length- and time-scale, but they are not linked together and often lack the accuracy required for understanding the unique phenomena occurring within batteries.
To advance current models and develop design tools which can accurately predict the performance and lifetime of existing and future batteries requires a fully integrated and tightly coordinated programme, drawing together the key modelling approaches capabilities into a multi-scale approach, across length and time scales.
In addition, few existing models consider the joint effects from different physical regimes, such as temperature and mechanics. The coupling between these regimes is poorly understood, but simulations which incorporate multiple effects are likely to provide more accurate predictions of as well as important insights into battery behaviour.
The project aims to design better batteries by improving the tools used by industry to predict battery performance. Incorporating the latest research findings of the fundamental physics which govern how batteries work will lead to dramatic improvements.
By working across length scales, the project hopes to achieve breakthroughs which are not possible by focusing on single scales alone. Our close collaboration with industry ensures that the problems we are solving are application driven and highly relevant to the UK industry as a whole.
The performance and lifetime of a battery in an electric vehicle (EV) depends not only on the underlying chemistry and physics of the chosen chemistry, but also on how cells are combined into a pack large enough to power an EV and the mechanisms controlling the local environment of each cell within that pack. Accurate simulations of batteries will give us the ability to design advanced batteries without the cost of creating numerous prototypes to test every new material, or new type and configuration of the cells which make up a pack. Simulations also offer valuable insight into how existing materials work, enabling us to identify the limiting processes and develop rational strategies to overcome them or design new materials, leading to significant improvements of battery performance and lifetime. Models for control will also enable us to extend the lifetime and/or performance and reduce the cost of existing and future packs.
The structure of this project has been carefully designed to ensure that researchers collaborate with others from different disciplines, for instance atomistic, continuum and pack modellers working together to solve specific challenges.
The project is focused around five Expeditions:
All of these are supported by five Cross-Cutting Activities providing vital data for all work packages:
In July 2017, the government launched the Faraday Battery Challenge as part of the government’s wider Industrial Strategy. Up to £246 million was made available to develop batteries that are cost-effective, high-quality, durable, safe, low-weight and recyclable. From this, £80 million was awarded to set up The Faraday Institution which was opened in October 2017. Since then, they have awarded £42 million to four fast start projects: Battery Degradation, Recycling and Reuse (ReLiB), Next Generation Solid-State Batteries (SOLBAT) and Multiscale Modelling.
Recruitment is complete and a great team of postdocs and PhD students are now in place around the UK. A successful introductory workshop was held in November 2018, enabling all the researchers to meet and understand how each other’s backgrounds and research interests fit into the bigger picture of the project and its aims.
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