Sustainable production of lithium using battery materials

   Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences

   Saturday, August 31, 2024  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Supervisory Team:   Prof Richard Wills, Prof. Nuria Garcia-Araez

Project description

The accelerating growth of the battery market requires major advances in the production of lithium for the supply of materials to manufacture the batteries. Due to the long life of lithium batteries, recycling methods alone will not be able to cope with the expected increase in battery demand. But it is critical that the increase in the production of lithium is done with environmentally friendly methods.

 Most lithium on Earth is present in salt lakes called brines, which contain other cations (sodium, potassium, magnesium) in vast excess. Fortunately, certain battery materials, used in electric vehicles, have a crystallographic structure that enables the selective absorption of only lithium ions, due to their smaller size (compared to sodium, potassium) or charge (compared to magnesium). These battery materials can, thus, be used as molecular sieves to separate lithium from the other cations, and, in this way, produce a pure lithium salt suitable for battery manufacture. The reactions of lithium sequestration and release from the battery materials can be controlled electrochemically, by assembling batteries with lithium brines and electrodes made with the selected battery materials. But the commercial feasibility of this new method requires that these batteries can be built at large scale and that the reactions can be run at high rate. 

This project will investigate a novel cell design (developed by Prof. Wills), which will be applied for the first time for the production of lithium using battery materials. The new cell is ideally suited to demonstrate the scalability of the method from laboratory scale (as shown in Prof. Garcia-Araez’s work, e.g. ChemSusChem 2022, 15, e202102182) towards practical applications.

The successful candidate will be affiliated to both the Energy Technology Research Group within the Mechanical Engineering Department and the School of Chemistry at University of Southampton. Training will be provided at the beginning of the project to help the student start these investigations.

If you wish to discuss any details of the project informally, please contact Prof. Richard Wills, Energy Technology Research Group, Email:

Entry Requirements

A very good undergraduate degree (at least a UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent) in Engineering, Chemistry or allied subjects/relevant disciplines

Closing date: 31 August 2024 Applications will be considered in the order that they are received, and the position will be considered filled when a suitable candidate has been identified.

Funding: Funding for tuition fees and a living stipend are available on a competitive basis. Funding will be awarded on a rolling basis, so apply early for the best opportunity to be considered.

How To Apply

Apply online: Search for a Postgraduate Programme of Study ( Select programme type (Research), 2024/25, Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences, next page select “PhD Engineering & Environment (Full time)”. In Section 2 of the application form you should insert the name of the supervisor Richard Wills

Applications should include:

Curriculum Vitae

Two reference letters

Degree Transcripts/Certificates to date

For further information please contact:

Chemistry (6) Engineering (12)

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