PhD: Enabling Synergy within the Sodium-ion Battery


Dr Lee Johnson

Energy Research Accelerator

The Energy Research Accelerator (ERA) is a cross-disciplinary energy hub, fostering business-academia collaboration to accelerate solutions to global energy challenges. It will provide new buildings, skilled people, jobs, products, and services to transform the energy sector. Building on existing programmes and academic expertise across the partnership, universities within ERA have committed over £2m for doctoral students for the ERA skills agenda. Through Innovate UK, the government has committed a capital investment of £60m, and ERA has secured private sector co-investment of £120m. ERA’s priorities of Geo-Energy Systems, Integrated Energy Systems, and Thermal Energy will help deliver new technologies and behaviours, enabling ERA to have a transformative effect across the energy spectrum.

The Project:

The Aim is to understand the dynamic chemistry within the sodium-ion battery and to use this knowledge to extend its cycle life. Lithium-ion battery technology has revolutionised energy storage and the modern world. Current demand is 70 GWh per annum and this market is expected to exceed 400 GWh per annum by 2025. This industry relies entirely on supplies of the strategically important metal, lithium. Diversification is essential and batteries based on abundant sodium (Na ~ 2.6 % vs. Li ~ 0.005 % in the Earth’s crust) must be developed. The sodium-ion battery will provide high performance alternatives to lithium-ion batteries, based on inexpensive, sustainable, and widely available sodium feedstocks.

Current state-of-the-art sodium-ion batteries rapidly lose energy over the first 500 charge and discharge cycles, making them unsuitable for commercialisation. The research activities of this PhD will be focussed on understanding the synergy between battery components (electrolyte, additives, electrodes, etc.) and how each influence performance and decomposition of the battery. A range of in situ characterisation methods will be applied to the battery to reveal its evolving chemistry during use. In collaboration with Dr E. Kendrick at WMG (Warwick), post-mortem characterisation of scaled up sodium-ion batteries will be performed, thus linking lab results to commercially relevant devices. The successful applicant will develop expertise in electrochemistry, materials chemistry, and device characterisation. They will acquire a knowledge of the challenges in the battery field and gain skills relevant to the industry. They will build lab scale cells, and through collaboration with WMG gain an understanding of scale up and manufacturing procedures.

Further details and apply here.