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Forum 2018

The Forum was held on Tuesday 12th June 2018.  The afternoon programme included the award of the Armourers & Brasiers’ Materials Science Venture Prize and the 20th Kelly Lecture.   

Materially better batteries

Professor Peter Bruce FRS, Department of Materials, University of Oxford 


Advances in energy materials are essential if the future needs of society for energy storage are to be met. The storage of electrical energy, in particular, is one of the grand challenges of our time. The rechargeable lithium-ion battery has powered the revolution in portable electronic devices, such as mobile telephones, tablets and smart watches, because of its exceptional energy density. The same advantage makes it the technology of choice for the transition of transportation from fossil fuels to electric vehicles. Lithium-ion batteries also have an important role to play in storing electricity from renewable sources. 

The fundamental science underpinning operation of the rechargeable lithium battery, especially the science of the electrode and electrolyte materials and their interfaces, needs to be better understood if we are to achieve the step-change in performance and reduction in cost required. Some of the current research challenges facing lithium batteries will be discussed. There is intense interest in developing all solid state batteries. A new class of solid electrolyte based on a 3D ordered interpenetrating ceramic/polymer lattice that offers advantages over ceramic or polymer electrolytes will be presented. The energy density of a lithium-ion battery is limited by the capacity to store electrons on the transition metal ions of the cathode, e.g. the Mn3+/4+ redox couple in LiMn2O4. Extending electron storage to the oxygens, O-redox, could achieve capacities that exceed current materials. Progress on understanding these O-redox materials will be discussed. Ultimately it will be necessary to reach beyond the limits of lithium–ion batteries. The Li-O2 (air) battery has the highest theoretical specific energy of any battery, 3500 Whkg-1, compared with 800 Whkg-1 for Li-ion. By introducing molecules that shuttle electrons between O2 and the surface of the porous carbon electrodes it has been possible to achieve cells with high rates and capacities opening the door to Li-air batteries.

Finally, the recently launched Faraday Institution, with a mission to lead the UK’s basic research in electrochemical energy storage will be presented.   


Peter Bruce’s research interests embrace materials chemistry and electrochemistry, especially lithium and sodium batteries. Recent efforts have focused on the synthesis and understanding of new materials for lithium-ion batteries, on understanding anomalous oxygen redox processes in high capacity Li-ion cathodes, the challenges of the lithium-air battery and the influence of order on the ionic conductivity of polymer electrolytes.  His research has been recognised by a number of awards and fellowships, including from the Royal Society, the Royal Society of Chemistry, the German Chemical Society and The Electrochemical Society. He was elected to the Royal Society in 2007 and the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1994.  As well as directing the UK Energy Storage Hub (SuperStore) and a consortium on lithium batteries, Peter is Chief Scientist of the Faraday Institution, the UK center for research on electrochemical energy storage.


Photos from the Forum

Promoting Materials Science to Industry and Academia

The Armourers and Brasiers' Cambridge Forum is held annually at the Department of Materials Science & Metallurgy in Cambridge with the aim of raising the profile of materials science in the UK academic and industrial communities, while being international in scope. The Forum attracts high-level involvement from industry, research councils and other influential bodies. It incorporates the Kelly Lecture and the Gordon Seminars, inaugurated in 1999 to mark the opening of the Gordon Laboratory in the Department. It is generously supported by the Armourers and Brasiers' Livery Company and nine other sponsors.