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Development of resilient batteries : 3D tomography of electrode cracking mechanisms, and methods for mitigation


   Department of Materials Science and Engineering

   Applications accepted all year round  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

This EPSRC studentship is an exciting opportunity to work with the NanoLAB group at The University of Sheffield, the Faraday Institution FutureCAT project and industrial partners to determine the evolution/degradation of batteries in 3D using advanced tomographic methodologies.

Cracking of electrodes is a serious problem for the longevity and performance of modern batteries, which reduces battery capacity and increases the likelihood of structural failure. Cracks may arise at different points in battery lifetimes (e.g. due to initial processing, and subsequent chemical, mechanical and thermal driving forces), and at length scales down to the nanoscale. To develop mitigating strategies to reduce crack influence and improve battery longevity, more is needed to be known about the mechanisms of battery cracking, including initiation, growth rates, propagation/3D shape, and effect on electrical properties. This project will deliver a comprehensive 3D analysis of electrode degradation/cracking via advanced tomography/microscopy, and investigate novel 3D electrode microstructures to improve battery performance.

Aims and Objectives

Specific project objectives include:

1.      Analysis of battery cracking on the nano↔macro scale by correlating FIB tomography (nano-microscale) with advanced Xray MicroCT tomography (micro-macro), enabling the transition from localised particle fracture to functionally damaging electrode fracture to be systematically evaluated.

2.      Evaluation of mechanisms of crack growth/propagation as a function of functional particle and 3D cathode microstructure, electrochemical history, and mechanical history.

3.      Implementation of novel in situ microCT and in situ SEM mechanical testing to dynamically generate, image and quantify crack propagation in situ.

4.      Investigation of novel 3D battery architectures to achieve crack inhibition and deflection, including crack resistant coatings and novel composites.

5.      Correlation of electrochemical performance of 3D battery microstructures with long-term battery mechanical resilience.

In this project you will be interacting with a large team of researchers working in the Battery field, including the Faraday Institution FutureCAT and Degradation Research projects, and industrial collaborators. You will develop fundamental knowledge of battery degradation in a range of NMC and new novel Li-ion battery electrodes. This PhD is also a cross-cutting project, developing advanced methodologies in characterisation, crack mechanics and interfacial engineering, which will be transferable to a wide range of battery chemistries and microstructures and provide quantitative data for multi-scale modelling of battery systems.

 Requirements: 

This is a challenging project and requires a researcher of outstanding technical ability who is enthusiastic, highly motivated and wants to contribute to world leading research. An existing detailed familiarity with all topics is not expected, but candidates should have a strong background in Physical Sciences or Materials/Ceramic Engineering, and have a strong interest in battery design, materials processing and 3D microstructural characterisation.

·      1st or 2:1 degree in Engineering, Materials Science, Physics, Chemistry, Applied Mathematics or other Relevant Discipline.

·      This is an EPSRC case studentship covering UK applicants fees and an EPSRC stipend of £15,609 (2021/22 rate).

·      Applications should be submitted through the University system by using our standard online PhD application form https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/postgradapplication/. Please indicate that you are applying for this advertised post.

Applications will remain open until a suitable candidate is found.

Further project information available from Prof Beverley Inkson ()


Funding Notes

This studentship will pay home tuition fees in full and a stipend for living expenses at the UKRI stipend rate (£15,609 in 2021-22). Funding is provided for 3.5 years.

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