Enhancing battery performance with quantum sensors

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A new project aimed at harnessing quantum technology to enhance vehicle battery performance has been awarded Partnership Resource Funding by the University of Birmingham-led UK Quantum Technology Hub Sensors and Timing.

The project, led by University of Sussex researchers, addresses a crucial need to increase battery energy density, longevity and safety. It will mark the first time quantum sensors are used as a solution in battery innovation.

Improving vehicle battery technology is key in delivering the Government’s 10-point plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, which confirms the UK will end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030. In order to meet these and other national and international decarbonisation targets, substantial research and development in these areas is urgently needed.

The project, which also includes the Universities of Strathclyde and Edinburgh as part of the consortium, aims to do exactly this by translating existing highly sensitive world-leading quantum magnetometer technology to an industrial-grade imaging device, to accurately examine the battery’s microscopic current flows. This technology will facilitate rapid assessments of new and existing battery chemistries to accelerate the creation of superior battery technology.

As with all the technology in development at the UK Quantum Technology Hub Sensors and Timing, which partners with the Universities of Sussex, Strathclyde, Glasgow, Southampton, Nottingham, Imperial College London, NPL and the British Geological Survey, the aim is to develop small, low power, portable devices that require no infrastructure and minimal running costs, suitable for economical production.

The increased battery energy and power density can also be exploited to continue the electrification transport, such as moving to electric aircrafts. 

Academics will also work closely with CDO2, Magnetic Shields Ltd and QinetiQ to work towards their goal of developing a viable sensor prototype ready for handover to industry for commercial exploitation. In particular, Magnetic Shields Ltd will provide the required magnetic noise-free environment to allow the sensor technology to be tested with unprecedented sensitivity.

Professor Peter Kruger, Research Professor of Experimental Physics at the University of Sussex, said: “We hope, through this project, to initiate an increase in the creation of new battery technologies through a better understanding of battery performance.”

“By facilitating improvements in battery energy density, manufacturing costs, battery lifetime and safety we hope to reduce carbon emissions and waste production globally.” 

David Woolger, Director at Magnetic Shields Ltd, said: “We are delighted to be providing the necessary equipment and facilities to help develop this imaging technology, and look forward to the next steps towards commercial exploitation.”

Innovation in magnetometer devices will also bring synergistic benefits in other part of the Quantum Technology Hub, such as biomedical imaging.

Notes for editors:

For media enquiries please contact Beck Lockwood, Press Office, University of Birmingham, tel: +44 (0)781 3343348.

About the Partnership Resource Fund
The Partnership Resource Fund is a £2million fund intended to foster new science and technology concepts across the entire national quantum sensors and timing landscape, in line with the Quantum Technology Hub’s mission to translate state-of-the-art technology into deployable practical devices. The next PRF call will be published on the University of Birmingham website later in 2021, and will include further details on eligibility and application. For any queries regarding the PRF, please contact Dr Jo Smart, Programme Manager.

About the UK Quantum Technology Hub Sensors and Timing

The UK Quantum Technology Hub Sensors and Timing (led by the University of Birmingham) brings together experts from Physics and Engineering from the Universities of Birmingham, Glasgow, Imperial, Nottingham, Southampton, Strathclyde and Sussex, NPL, the British Geological Survey and over 70 industry partners. The Hub has over 100 projects, valued at approximately £100 million, and has 17 patent applications.

The UK Quantum Technology Hub Sensors and Timing is part of the National Quantum Technologies Programme (NQTP), which was established in 2014 and has EPSRC, IUK, STFC, MOD, NPL, BEIS, and GCHQ as partners. Four Quantum Technology Hubs were set up at the outset, each focussing on specific application areas with anticipated societal and economic impact. The Commercialising Quantum Technologies Challenge (funded by the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund) is part of the NQTP and was launched to accelerate the development of quantum enabled products and services, removing barriers to productivity and competitiveness. The NQTP is set to invest £1B of public and private sector funds over its ten-year lifetime. 

About the University of Birmingham
The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions. Its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers, teachers and more than 6,500 international students from over 150 countries.