Next generation battery materials project exceeding expectations: Project SUNRISE update from Nexeon

06 January 2020


Nexeon, a UK company developing silicon materials for next generation Li-ion batteries, has reached the halfway stage in its £10million SUNRISE project, and has already produced silicon battery materials that have performed better than expected. Samples are now with potential customers for evaluation – and initial feedback has been very positive.

SUNRISE is on target to develop significantly better materials for Li-ion batteries, work that is an essential step to achieving greater range (400 miles and above) with electric vehicles (EVs). Silicon enhanced batteries with longer life and higher energy density will also be of benefit in consumer electronics products, as well as static energy storage applications.

In a further development, a prototype reactor has been built and is operational, and progress has been made to ramp up production capability.

The work is supported by £7million in Innovate UK funding (as part of the Faraday Battery Challenge), and the other partners in the project are polymer company, Synthomer and UCL (University College London). The Faraday Battery Challenge is the first in a series of Research Challenges managed by Innovate UK as part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF), with an investment of £246m over four years to help UK businesses seize the opportunities presented by the transition to a low carbon economy, to ensure the UK leads the world in the design, development and manufacture of batteries for electric vehicles. Success in creating a viable battery supply chain will lead to the creation of hundreds of UK jobs, according to Innovate UK. Project SUNRISE will enhance the UK’s position as a centre of excellence for battery development, and support the materials manufacturing supply chain in the UK.

Nexeon will lead the silicon material development and scale-up stages of the SUNRISE project, while Synthomer will lead the development of a next generation polymer binder optimised to work with silicon, and ensure anode/binder cohesion during a lifetime of charges. Nexeon and University College London (UCL) will jointly lead the work on material characterisation and cell performance.

Silicon is currently being adopted as a partial replacement for carbon in battery anodes, typically up to the level of 10% replacement, but problems caused by expansion when the cells are charged and discharged remain a hurdle. Project SUNRISE addresses the silicon expansion and binder system issues, and allows more silicon to be used, further increasing the energy density that can be achieved in the cell. Innovative silicon anode material with a polymer binder represents a ‘drop-in’ replacement for current graphite anode systems. Lower cost and better performance power sources will reduce the time required for EVs to achieve mass adoption.

The excellent progress we have been making in this project has enabled us to accelerate scale-up ahead of our original plan,” said Dr Scott Brown, CEO of Nexeon. “We are very pleased with the support we have received from Innovate UK, as well as from UK and global OEMs, and we are eagerly awaiting additional feedback from the evaluation of materials produced.

The project, named SUNRISE after ‘Synthomer, UCL & Nexeon’s Rapid Improvement in the Storage of Energy’, began in 2018, and is developing better battery materials, based on silicon as a replacement for carbon in the cell anode, and optimising cell designs for specific applications.

About Nexeon
Nexeon is a battery materials company developing and producing silicon materials for the next generation of lithium-ion rechargeable batteries. Nexeon scientists have shown that producing silicon with particular morphologies makes it possible to use it as the battery anode material, and to develop batteries with significant performance advantages over their traditional equivalents.

Nexeon is based in Oxfordshire, and has established a manufacturing facility capable of producing 20 tonnes of material per year. Nexeon also runs a fully instrumented pilot plant, allowing an accurate understanding of the processes and costs associated with making anode materials. The technology has been conceived with a ‘drop in’ approach, requiring the minimum of changes to an existing Li-ion battery manufacturing operation.

Nexeon views the automotive and consumer electronics sectors as early targets for its technology, and has established relationships with global manufacturers in these sectors.

About Synthomer
Synthomer develops and markets polymers used in a wide range of industries to create and enhance everyday consumer products. It holds leading positions in its chosen markets and has a proven record to generate added value to its customers through in-depth application know-how and strong R&D support. Synthomer is one of the world’s major suppliers of lattices and speciality polymers supporting leadership positions in many market segments. It uses its technical expertise and R&D capability to deliver competitive advantage by helping customers to create successful products and to improve the efficiency of their manufacturing operations.

About UCL – London’s Global University
UCL is a diverse community with the freedom to challenge and think differently. Our community of more than 41,500 students from 150 countries and over 12,500 staff pursues academic excellence, breaks boundaries and makes a positive impact on real world problems.

We are consistently ranked among the top 10 universities in the world and are one of only a handful of institutions rated as having the strongest academic reputation and the broadest research impact. We have a progressive and integrated approach to our teaching and research – championing innovation, creativity and cross-disciplinary working. We teach our students how to think, not what to think, and see them as partners, collaborators and contributors. 

For almost 200 years, we are proud to have opened higher education to students from a wide range of backgrounds and to change the way we create and share knowledge. We were the first in England to welcome women to university education and that courageous attitude and disruptive spirit is still alive today.

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