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Strathclyde joins quantum technology battery manufacturing project

Electric cars

The University of Strathclyde has joined a UK-wide project aimed at accelerating the manufacturing of batteries for electric vehicles.

Project Quantum is a £5.4 million, three-year project for developing cutting-edge battery manufacturing solutions, driving productivity and economic growth in the sector, and supporting the UK’s transition to electric vehicles.

Electric vehicles are forecast to account for one in five car sales by 2026 and this is expected to mean a surge in demand for the lithium-ion batteries which power them.

Strathclyde is one of 10 partners in the project, which is being led by battery manufacturer AMTE Power, based in Thurso, Highland, and funded by Innovate UK. The Strathclyde researchers are working with a range of partners in developing the supply chain, including Kelvin Nanotechnology, Compound Semiconductor Centre and the Centre for Process Innovation.

The project aims to commercialise known quantum technology, to address identified inefficiencies and challenges in the manufacture of lithium cells. Quantum technology enables highly sensitive measurements of magnetic fields to improve quality yields, and effectively grade new batteries – reducing the time taken for the ageing process from weeks to days.

Professor Erling Riis, of Strathclyde’s Department of Physics, is the University’s lead in the project. He said: “These batteries are produced in gigafactories at a rate of one per second, all day, every day of the year, making a total of 30 million a year. The problem is that they don’t have a 100% yield and to find out their quality, they have to be kept at an elevated temperature for two to four weeks before the product can be sent out.

“If the charge is leaking out of a battery, it produces magnetic fields and we have a sensitive way of measuring these, with the use of magnetometers, which have the sensitivity required to pick up minute levels.

“We previously developed the basic unit and are now working with several of the other partners in developing the supply chain required for manufacturing the batteries, and on specific ways of making them that are appropriate.”

Kevin Brundish, CEO of AMTE Power, said: “Making the battery production process both more efficient and greener is a crucial step towards the UK meeting its zero-carbon climate objectives, especially as approximately 50% of vehicle production will be wholly or partially electric by 2030. The collaborative Project Quantum firmly cements the country’s exceptional talent and capabilities within the research and development of pioneering cell technology, helping the UK to become more competitive on the international stage.”

The University of Strathclyde is the only academic institution that has been a partner in all four EPSRC-funded Quantum Technology Hubs in both phases of funding. The Hubs are in: Sensing and Timing; Quantum Enhanced Imaging; Quantum Computing and Simulation, and Quantum Communications Technologies.