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$3.5 million partnership to jumpstart confidence in lithium ion car batteries

$3.5 million partnership to jumpstart confidence in lithium ion car batteries

Gillian Goward chats with MP Mike Wallace in her lab.

March 30, 2012

Improving the reliability and cost of batteries that power electric vehicles is the goal of a major public-private research effort announced today by Burlington MP Mike Wallace.

Speaking on behalf of Minister of State for Science and Technology Gary Goodyear, Wallace visited campus to announce that the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council will fund a four-year research project, with major cash and in-kind contributions from General Motors of Canada and instrument makers Bruker Ltd. and Heka Electronics.

"McMaster University continues to be a leader in automotive search in Canada," Wallace told an audience of students, faculty, journalists and community leaders, including Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina. "McMaster is a true partner in this industry-driven initiative, as this project creates jobs now and in the future while improving our environment. This is a win, win, win project."

McMaster's VP, Research, Mo Elbestawi and dean of science John Capone thanked the federal government and industry partners, and congratulated the McMaster researchers.

The project aims to improve the longevity, reliability and cost of rechargeable lithium ion batteries, which have been identified as priorities in encouraging consumers to adopt electric vehicles.

The value of the project totals $3.5 million over four years, including $2.3 million from NSERC. The remainder is to come as cash and in-kind contributions from the industry partners. The McMaster announcement was made as Minister Goodyear announced other Automotive Partnership Canada projects in Windsor.

An interdisciplinary team of researchers from McMaster, including participation from chemistry, materials science and mathematics, together with researchers from l'Universite du Quebec a Montreal, McGill University and Western University, will study the lithium ion battery.

Their work will explore the components of batteries down to the molecular scale in the hope of improving the reliability of the batteries that are so critical to the performance of electric vehicles.

The funding will allow the research to take place in situ - or as the battery cell is cycling -- generating the most useful data in the effort to boost efficiency and reliability.

Battery materials will be tested using magnetic resonance, electron microscopy and mathematical modeling.

Bruker Ltd. and Heka Electronics will provide in-kind contributions of complex instruments that will make the research possible.

"It's a new angle for us," explained researcher Gillian Goward, an associate professor of chemistry at McMaster, who will work with a team that includes campus colleagues Gianluigi Botton, (materials science) and Bartosz Protas, (applied mathematics). "It's about why batteries degrade and what processes lead to cell death."

General Motors of Canada will provide nearly $650,000 in cash and in-kind support to the project. The auto maker has identified the electrification of vehicles as the next driver of automotive technologies.

"General Motors of Canada is proud to be a leading supporter of collaborative research in Canada," said Justin Gammage, chief scientist, GM of Canada. "Innovation and R&D are not only core advantages in the automotive industry, they are essential as we re-think the automobile and deploy innovative approaches to develop tomorrow's technologies."