Business Secretary Greg Clark MP announces new national battery facility for UK

Business secretary Greg Clark MP announces new national battery facility for UK

UK government minister Greg Clark makes major battery announcements at Internet of Business event.

The UK Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy Greg Clark unveiled the second phase Faraday Challenge funding winners yesterday, in his keynote speech at the Internet of Business Battery & Energy Storage 2017 event.

A total investment of £120m from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund will be injected into battery innovation, including £40 million through Innovate UK to fund 27 battery research projects. This will involve 66 organisations and encompass key technologies, such as the development of battery materials, design and production of modules and packs, advances in thermal and battery management systems, and recycling of battery packs.

He also announced the creation of a new national battery facility, which has been allocated the remaining £80 million in funding. This is the most significant development to date, in what is set to be a £246 million commitment over four years by the UK government.

The partnership between the Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) at the University of Warwick, Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership, and Coventry City Council will ensure the UK’s place at the forefront of battery research and manufacturing, said Clark.

Read more: UK aims for world leadership in battery tech

Big ambitions

The National Battery Manufacturing Development Facility (NBMDF) will offer comprehensive academic and vocational training programs, and lead global research. The facility should serve to speed market entry of performance leading products, enable rapid growth and attract investment in key technologies.

“Battery technology is one of the most game-changing forms of energy innovation and it is one of the cornerstones of our ambition, through the Industrial Strategy and the Faraday Challenge, to ensure that the UK leads the world, and reaps the economic benefits, in the global transition to a low carbon economy,” said the Secretary of State in his speech.

“The new facility, based in Coventry and Warwickshire, will propel the UK forward in this thriving area, bringing experts from academia and industry together to deliver innovation and R&D that will further enhance the West Midlands’ international reputation as a cluster of automotive excellence.”

Read more: Battery tech will power global smart grid ambitions

The Faraday Challenge

Greg Clarke was eager to emphasize the importance of the Faraday Challenge to the future of battery technology, the automotive industry and the renewable energy sector.

“These competitions transform energy storage from something exclusive, at esteemed conferences such as this, to something that is accessible to every household in the UK. Our industrial strategy is building a brighter future for storage. All of you here today are part of this future. We have to come together to maximize this opportunity.”

The Faraday Challenge was introduced earlier this year to help jump-start innovation in the sector. The competition for funding is split into three streams – research, innovation and scale-up:

  • A new ‘application-inspired’ research programme coordinated at national scale
  • An innovation programme to support collaborative research and development with co-investment from industry
  • A scale-up programme to allow companies of all sizes to rapidly move new battery technologies to market

These principles are being applied to the whole spectrum of batteries’ development and use, from raw materials and advances in electrochemistry, to their end-of-life treatment.

Read more: Wireless charging ‘Forever Battery’ offers innovative AA battery replacement

Future of battery technology in the UK

Though there’s still a long way to go, as shown by the slow adoption of electric cars, battery technology is becoming increasingly viable from a value perspective. The cost of lithium ion battery production has fallen by 50 percent in the last two years. This has led to developments such as Jaguar Land Rover creating 10,000 manufacturing jobs in the UK from its line of electric vehicles.

We will also soon see the electrification of passenger airplanes. Airbus plans to produce electric hybrids by 2020 and commercialize them by 2025.

This cost viability is being reflected in the renewable sector, too. By 2020, we can expect 550 functioning grid-scale battery facilities, which will help to overcome the variability that comes with generating energy from the UK’s unpredictable wind and sun.

With rapid advancement in technology comes a need for regulatory reform and Greg Clark was eager to emphasize the government’s work with Ofgem to remove these roadblocks. The regulator is currently modifying electricity generation licences to accommodate energy storage.

Read more: Powervault to give electric car batteries a second life in smart homes

Can the UK lead the way?

Warwick University’s campus was a fitting venue for the Battery & Energy Storage event and the Secretary of State’s announcement. The institution has been a proponent of industry and research in the area for decades. Even the building in which the conference took place acted as a microcosm of the event’s vision for the future, with its solar panels and sustainable design.

It’s one thing to talk up the need for the UK to lead worldwide battery research and development, but it’s quite another to make it a reality. The obvious question, put to Greg Clark yesterday, was, “Are we investing enough?”

His response? “Since 2010 we’ve managed to prevent the research and development budget being cut. We are now looking for an increase. We want to be one of the nations investing the most in R&D. The target is to go from 1.7 percent of GPD to 2.4 percent, in the next 10 years – then 3 percent after that.”

The announcement leaves the impression that, though we may not have the comparatively limitless budgets that counterparts elsewhere in the world have, we have a deep vein of talented scientists and engineers in the UK that enables us to punch well above our weight.

As the country where the lithium ion battery was invented, and given the key role that batteries will play in the future, it’s important that the UK remains at the head of battery technology worldwide. The National Battery Manufacturing Development Facility will have a vital part to play, if that goal is to be achieved.

Read more: Metals shortages pose little risk to future battery production, MIT finds

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Wireless charging ‘Forever Battery’ offers innovative AA battery replacement

Wireless charging ‘Forever Battery’ offers innovative AA battery replacement

The world’s first wireless charging alternative to AA batteries, from Ossia, dubbed the Cota ‘Forever Battery’, has earned a CES Innovation Award in the company’s third consecutive year as honorees.

Ossia, the burgeoning wireless power company out of Washington, USA, was founded in 2008 by physicist and technologist Hatem Zeine. Since its wider launch in 2013, its global team of engineers have been developing their wireless power ecosystem.

Even the company name, ‘Ossia’, communicates disruption. It comes from the Italian for ‘alternatively’ and is a musical term for a passage that can be played in place of the original. The label seems well chosen – Ossia’s wireless-power solutions have the convenience of use and flexibility required to replace much of our existing battery technology.

Ossia’s latest advancement comes in form of a reinvention of an energy source we have been using for decades – the AA battery. Over three billion batteries are thrown away each year in the United States alone. The company’s ‘Forever Battery’ aims to reduce this wastage and the environmental impact of battery disposal, as well as provide a battery that never runs out of juice.

Read more: Battery-free Bluetooth tech from Wiliot one step closer to transforming IoT

Aiding wireless charging battery adoption

While Ossia’s previous solutions have required their power receiver to be built into the device itself, the Forever Battery allows devices that support standard battery formats to benefit from the technology – starting with the AA form factor. This world-first has been recognized by the Consumer Technology Association’s CES Innovation Awards Program, making the product an honoree in its Smart Home category.

Cota forever batteries

Cota forever batteries (credit: Ossia)

“Forever Battery bridges the gap between the battery-wire age and the wireless power era,” said Mario Obeidat, CEO at Ossia. “When people see how Cota Real Wireless Power can be implemented in a AA battery, they will start to see the vision of Cota everywhere. The Forever Battery will create awareness of Cota and provide confidence that devices will be powered when it matters.”

This innovation builds upon Ossia technologies that have previous honored at the CES Innovation Awards, including its flagship wireless power system and its wireless power transmitter disguised as a standard ceiling tile.

Read more: Microsoft and GE team up on wind energy and battery tech

How Ossia’s tech works

The Cota wireless power receiver, transmitter, and cloud software combine across multiple devices to allow easy, safe radio-based wireless power. Even when devices are on the move or lack line-of-sight, they can still receive as much as 4W of power from up to four transmitters. The Cota Cloud platform, meanwhile, offers a range of opportunities for businesses and consumers to activate, monitor and manage their Cota-enabled devices.

How Cota wireless charging works

How Cota Works (credit: Ossia)

By combining these products, you can easily retrofit an ecosystem that slots naturally into a home or business and provides constant wireless power. Smart home products such as security systems, thermostats, remote controls and other IoT devices can all easily be upgraded.

Induction and contact-based charging solutions are far more limited by their range, relying on close interaction between electromagnetic fields or resonant charging. In employing radio waves, Ossia’s technology looks better placed to leverage the full potential of a digital lifestyle without wires, granting you greater range without having to worry about recharging or replacing batteries.

Two weeks to go: On 28 & 29 November 2017, we will be holding our Battery and Energy Storage Show event at The Slate at Warwick University Campus, UK, featuring a wide range of specialist speakers from both the private and public sectors.

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Brunel scientists develop flexible, wearable 3D-printed battery

3d printed battery developed by brunel university

Scientists at Brunel University London have become the first to devise a simple and affordable method of 3D printing a flexible battery. 

These days, the long hours spent charging our wearables and gadgets represent the most significant amount of time we spend away from them. Portable chargers have already started to fill that powerless void. Now, it looks as though technology developed at Brunel University London could keep devices running for longer.

With the help of readily available household supplies and a 3D printer, scientists at Brunel have devised a flexible, wearable battery that can be implanted into a plastic wristband. The technique opens the door for experimental wearable designs that could provide a handy source power for phones, medical implants and more.

Read more: Researchers look to protect 3D printers from cyber attacks

3D printing a supercapacitor

Although 3D printers are typically limited to design studios and maker’s workshops, it may not be too long before they are more common in everyday homes and offices. With that in mind, printing a personal battery that doubles as a wearable seems a good idea.

According to a blog post published by Brunel, the process is straightforward: “The printer squirts stacks of silicone, glue and gel electrolyte pastes like a layer cake, to make what looks like a clear festival wristband. Sandwiched inside is a supercapacitor, which stores energy like a battery, but on its surface and without chemical reactions.”

The project has been undertaken by Brunel’s Cleaner Electronics Research Group. Its focus is to reduce the environmental impact of electronic consumer products in pursuit of sustainable progress.

“This is the first time a flexible supercapacitor including all its components has been produced by 3D printing,” said the group’s Milad Areir, co-author of the report, A study of 3D printed flexible supercapacitors onto silicone rubber substrates.

“The most popular way to produce them is screen printing, but with that, you can’t print the frame of the supercapacitor on silicone. Our technique brings it all together into one process with one machine. It will definitely save time and costs on expensive materials,” said Areir.

Read more: Metals shortages pose little risk to future battery production, MIT finds

A step forward for battery technology

Researchers around the world have been pioneering novel ways to create flexible supercapacitors. But many of those methods are costly and rely on 3D laser selective melting machines and multiple stages to print different parts.

Brunel’s work suggests that a simple, powered-up wristband can be made using inexpensive items you can find in any hardware store, instead of expensive metals or semiconductors. The flexible batteries also stand up to stress tests without losing power.

“This has developed a novel 3D printing method for manufacturing flexible supercapacitators, by one single continuous process using low-cost flexible silicone compatible with the electrode, current collector and electrolyte materials,” the study says.

According to Brunel, it may soon be simple for anybody to print their own battery. All they will need is an open-source printer connected by USB to a syringe driver and a motor. After that, it’s just a case of printing the layers in a honeycomb pattern.

The simple design means that less material needs printing and the process is fast. It also leaves room for designers to experiment with different shapes.

The process is easy to copy, according to the study, and shows 3D printing using paste extrusion can be used to develop more sophisticated electronic devices with different mixes of paste.

“In future it can be used for mobile phones,” said Milad. “For example, if the phone battery is dead, you could plug the phone into the supercapacitor wristband and it could act as a booster pack, providing enough power to get to the next charging point.”

On 28 & 29 November 2017, we will be holding our Battery and Energy Storage Show event at The Slate at Warwick University Campus, UK, featuring a wide range of specialist speakers from both the private and public sectors.


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Metals shortages pose little risk to future battery production, MIT finds

Metals shortages pose little risk to future battery production, MIT finds

MIT-led study finds that while short-term supply chain bottlenecks could limit battery production in future, there is no shortage of metals with which to manufacture them. 

The battery industry can relax. In the near future, shortages of critical metals will place “absolutely no limitations” on battery manufacturing, according to a report published this week by US academics.

Since batteries are what will keep the IoT ticking along, this will come as a big relief to many in the industry.

But, the researchers warn, “without proper planning”, there could still be short-term bottlenecks in the supplies of some metals, particularly lithium and cobalt, that could cause temporary slowdowns in production.

The study was conducted by Professor Elsa Olivetti and doctoral student Xinkai Fu at MIT’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering; Gerbrand Ceder at the University of California at Berkeley (UCB); and Gabrielle Gaustad at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Their report appeared this week in the journal Joule.

Read more: Microsoft and GE team up on wind energy and battery tech

Key ingredients

The researchers decided to focus their research on the five most essential ingredients needed to produce today’s lithium-ion batteries: lithium, cobalt, manganese, nickel and carbon, in the form of graphite. Other key ingredients, they say, are so abundant that they are not considered to be a limiting factor.

Among those five key materials, it quickly became clear that nickel and manganese are used so widely in other industries that battery production – even if it significantly increases – doesn’t constitute “a significant slice of the pie”, according to Olivetti.

Instead, it’s supply chains of lithium and cobalt that are most likely to be impacted by shortages. Since Lithium can either be mined or processed from brines, with the latter process easy to ramp up quickly, in as little as six to eight months, serious disruption to battery production is unlikely. Cobalt production, however, is more complicated, since its major source is the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has a history of violent conflict and corruption.

Read more: Battery tech will power global smart grid ambitions

New mines ahead

But the main potential cause of delays in obtaining new supplies of the mineral comes from not its inherent geographic distribution, but from actual extraction. “The delay is in the ability to open new mines,” said Olivetti. “With any of these things, the material is out there, but the question is at what price.”

To guard against possible disruptions in the cobalt supply, she added, researchers “are trying to move to cathode materials [for lithium-ion batteries] that are less cobalt-dependent.”

Still, the good news is that, over the next 15 years, while potential bottlenecks exist, there are no serious obstacles to meeting rising demand. And that matters to the IoT, as batteries are what keep many connected sensors, devices and machines ‘alive’ – particularly electric vehicles.

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Microsoft and GE team up on wind energy and battery tech

Microsoft and GE team up on wind energy and battery tech

Tech giant Microsoft has teamed up with General Electric (GE) on a new wind energy agreement in Ireland, which the two companies claim could transform battery technology development.

Microsoft has entered 15-year power purchase agreement with GE and is purchasing 100 percent of the wind energy generated at GE’s brand new, 37-megawatt Tullahennel wind farm in County Kerry.

Transforming battery tech

Each turbine at Tullahnnel boasts an integrated battery, and the two companies want to test how efficiently they can capture and store excess energy before sending it to the grid as needed.

This will be Europe’s first deployment of battery integration with wind turbines, they claim. By storing energy in this way, it will be easier to provide more predictable power to an increasingly green Irish grid and integrate renewables like wind energy with older forms of power generation.

The agreement will also support growing demand for Microsoft’s data center-based cloud services in Ireland and, as part of the deal, Dublin-based trading business ElectroRoute will offer energy trading services.

Christian Belady, general manager of data center strategy at Microsoft, said: “Microsoft is proud to be deepening our long history of investment and partnership in Ireland with this agreement.

“Our commitment will help bring new, clean energy to the Irish grid, and contains innovative elements that have the potential to grow the capacity, reliability and capability of the grid. This will make it easier to incorporate new clean power sources like wind energy, and that is good for the environment, for Ireland and for our company.”

Read more: Battery tech will power global smart grid ambitions

IIoT data on Predix

General Electric’s own digital wind farm technology will also be used in the project. This is capable of making renewable energy outputs even more reliable, it claims. The Predix platform from GE, which provides a platform for the analysis of industrial IoT (IIoT) data, offers a range of digital models to ensure that energy generation can meet forecasted demand and to reduce intermittency concerns.

Andres Isaza, chief commercial officer of GE Renewable Energy, said: “This partnership with Microsoft expands GE’s considerable presence and investment in Ireland, where we already employ over 1,500 people and, in particular, in the renewable energy sector.

“Wind is now one of the most competitive sources of electricity on the market today, and we’re excited about the capability to use data generated from these wind turbines, using the Predix platform, to maximise the output and value of this project.”

Read more: Inmarsat research: skills gap threatens IoT innovation in energy sector

Investing in Ireland

Microsoft will also acquire an Irish energy supply license from GE, allowing to easily grow and invest in renewable energy in Ireland over time. ElectroRoute will act as a trading service provider.

Ronan Doherty, chief executive at ElectroRoute, said the company was delighted to be working with Microsoft and GE. “The wind energy sector is particularly vibrant in Ireland at the moment, and we are seeing the emergence of an array of new structures and procurement approaches, which I feel will persist and grow into the future,” he commented. 

Other tech giants are thinking along similar lines as the cost of renewable energy continues to fall. Last week, Facebook announced plans for a new US data centre in Virginia to be supplied by solar power facilities built by Dominion Energy.

On 28 & 29 November 2017, we will be holding our Battery and Energy Storage Show event at The Slate at Warwick University Campus, UK, featuring a wide range of specialist speakers from both the private and public sectors.

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