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Designing New Production Processes for Lithium-Ion Batteries for a Sustainable Future


   Department of Chemical & Biological Engineering

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  Dr Rachel Smith, Dr D Cumming  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Sheffield United Kingdom Chemical Engineering Computational Chemistry Computational Physics Manufacturing Engineering Mechanical Engineering Chemistry Materials Science Physics

About the Project

This is an exciting opportunity to help revolutionise the manufacture of lithium ion batteries, and play an important role in designing low-carbon energy solutions for the future.  An enhanced stipend of £20,000 per year is offered for 4 years, with exclusive training offered by the Faraday Institution and exceptional opportunities to engage with research project partner companies such as Toyota, Johnson Matthey, Siemens and Altair (amongst others). The project will start before the end of December 2021.

The manufacture of better, more sustainable and cheaper lithium-ion batteries is a crucial part of the strategy to reduce the impact of climate change and reach net zero carbon production. This is particularly important for the future of electric vehicles. In this research project, you will apply cutting edge particle processing techniques to the manufacture of lithium-ion battery electrodes. You will work closely with our Faraday Institution funded research project Nextrode (https://nextrode.web.ox.ac.uk/), which is developing new manufacturing methods for electrodes. 

Electrodes are traditionally manufactured using the slurry casting process, which involves large volumes of solvents. Use of solvents cause a number of challenges during manufacture, such as  solvent toxicity, high energy usage which increases the cost of manufacture (and carbon footprint), and defects in the electrode microstructural. Because of these problems, there is a strong need for new electrode manufacturing techniques which reduce or completely eliminate solvents. 

In this research project, you will apply modern particle processing techniques to the challenge of low solvent electrode manufacture. In particular, you will use computational modelling such as Discrete Element Method (DEM) to examine, understand and predict the performance of new dry electrode manufacturing processes. DEM has been used widely outside of the electrode manufacturing industry. The application of DEM to battery manufacture is highly novel and has great potential to transform energy storage device manufacture. 

You will perform research at multiple length scales, generate mechanistic understanding of mixing and de-agglomeration, and apply this knowledge to the development of novel dry processing technologies for lithium ion battery manufacture. You will have the opportunity to develop skills across the breadth of electrode manufacture, in computational modelling, experimental techniques and characterisation.

Your technical project is coupled with an extensive cohort training programme deliver by the Faraday Institution.

In order to apply for a Faraday Institution PhD position, you need to do both of the following:

1. Complete a Faraday Institution expression of interest form: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/2K76M6V.

2. Follow the university application process. Please see this link for information on the University application process: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/cbe/postgraduate/phd/how-apply. Please include the name of your proposed supervisor and the title of the PhD project within your application.

A successful applicant would have a first or upper second class degree in Chemical Engineering, Materials Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, the Physical Sciences such as Physics or Chemistry, Materials Science, or other related discipline. If English is not your first language then you must have an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) average of 6.5 or above with at least 6.0 in each component, or equivalent. Please see this link for further information: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/postgraduate/phd/apply/english-language.

The successful student will take part in the prestigious Faraday Institution Cluster PhD training programme, and will have access to cutting edge facilities, techniques and expertise at The University of Sheffield and across the Nextrode consortium partners University of Oxford, University College London, The University of Warwick, The University of Birmingham and The University of Southampton. A range of highly desirable skills will be learnt through this project. In particular, the student will gain training in computational methods, electrochemical characterisation, electrode manufacturing techniques, particle size and shape analysis, research methodology, professional writing, and oral presentations. Expert training in specific tools will be provided to the successful candidate. 

This project will provide skills which are valuable to many industries, in particular energy storage device manufacturing, but also the pharmaceuticals, foods, and consumer products industries.

The successful student will join the extensive Faraday Institution network, as well as an established research group with excellent facilities at The University of Sheffield, and will be a part of cutting edge research in energy storage devices and particulate manufacturing. Opportunities for attendance at both international and national conferences will be provided, and there are prospects to visit institutions and companies such as Toyota, Johnson Matthey, Siemens and Altair.


Funding Notes

The Faraday Institution Cluster PhD researchers receive an enhanced stipend over and above the standard EPSRC offer. The total annual stipend is approximately £20,000 plus an additional training package worth £7,000. 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 https://faraday.ac.uk/education-skills/phd-researchers/.
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