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PI: Grobert, Nicole

Department: Materials

The UK automotive sector promised a smooth transition to electric vehicles before ending sales of new combustion engines by 2030. The UK Government made policy commitments towards this increasing battery demand by supporting the creation of at least three additional gigafactories producing over 100 GWh by 2030 and meeting a demand of nearly 200 GWh per annum by 2040.

Effective battery pack designs and materials are crucial to maintain an optimal environment for electrochemical output, and robust thermal management strategies at the packing level are vital for protecting cells from unexpected internal or external disturbances and preventing battery failure. Nevertheless, despite safety measures, battery incidents usually associated with high-profile fire/explosion accidents are reported and raise concern. Along with making industrial progress to meeting the energy demand, the UK government has invested £330 M in the Faraday Battery Challenge (2017-2022) to support collaborative development programmes across 27 UK universities for research on durable, safe, and recyclable batteries and manufacturing scale-up.

The Nanomaterials by Design (NbD) research group in the Materials Department of Oxford has been leading research in developing ultralight porous materials made of flexible ceramic nanofibres for more efficient battery thermal management. This project, supported by the Faraday Institution and Williams Advanced Engineering Ltd, will develop and test innovative 'active' battery insulators and evaluate their efficacy in suppressing thermal runaway and fire propagation to prevent cell death. Both partners will jointly contribute to transforming the technology from research demonstration to pilot manufacturing. This project, underpinning EPSRC areas of Engineering, Manufacturing the Future, and Advanced Materials, aligns with UK's electric vehicle and battery production roadmap and will significantly impact future electrical energy storage applications.

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