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Alternative binders to simplify the recycling of lithium ion batteries

Project Description

Lithium ion batteries use polyvinyldifluoride PVDF as a binder for both the carbon on copper and metal oxide on aluminium electrodes. This is naturally an inert material ensuring that the active materials remain well adhered to the current collectors during service. The PVDF binder is, however difficult to separate from the composite material which makes recycling difficult. The aim of this proposal is to test novel binders which contain a flaw which could be used to weaken the adhesive bond during recycling.

Carboxymethylcellulose has been used as an alternative binder but its recyclability has not been characterised (1). There are some numerous other biodegradable polymers which have been used as adhesives and can be broken down by simple enzymes (2). We have previously developed both lignin and starch-based adhesives which can be debonded using either enzymes or steam (3) Polyurethanes with linkages which can be chemically or thermally broken have also been demonstrated. (4).

In this study, a variety of polymer systems will be tested to determine their suitability as adhesives which can be selectively debonded at end of life. In each case the surface wettability and adhesive strength will be characterised using contact angle, stress testing and differential mechanical thermal analysis. Coin cells will be constructed using the different adhesives and the cells will be cycled 1000 times following which the materials will be inspected using a variety of microscopic techniques. Tests run to determine how easily the electrode materials can be debonded. In all cases a techno-economic evaluation together with a life cycle analysis of the material will be carried out and compared to the current PVDF material.

Recipients will have access to multiple networking opportunities, industry visits, mentorship, internships, as well as quality experiences that will further develop knowledge, skills, and aspirations.

The University of Leicester is committed in its pursuit of academic excellence to equality of opportunity and to a pro-active and inclusive approach to equality, which supports and encourages all under-represented groups, promotes an inclusive culture, and values diversity.

Entry requirements

Applicants are required to hold/or expect to obtain a UK Bachelor Degree 2:1 or better in a relevant subject. The University of Leicester

English language requirements apply where applicable:

How to apply

You should submit your application using our online application system:

Apply for a PhD in Chemistry
In the funding section of the application please indicate you wish to be considered for a Faraday 2019 Studentship
In the proposal section please provide the name of the supervisor and project you want to be considered for.

Project / Funding Enquiries:

Application enquiries to

Closing date for applications 9th May 2019

Funding Notes

Fully funded EPSRC Faraday studentship, including Home/EU fees, and enhanced stipend of £20,000 per annum
Enhanced RTSG of £7000 per annum


1) RSC Adv., 2014, 4, 24859
2) Biomacromolecules, 2017, 18, 3009
3) T.Abolibda PhD Thesis, ULeic. 2017
4) Polym. Chem., 2017, 8, 7207

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