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UBCO teams with industry to develop next-generation battery

UBCO engineering students Peter Zhao and Huibing He examine the component of a tiny lithium-tellurium battery along with assistant professor Jian Liu (right).

UBCO engineering students Peter Zhao and Huibing He examine the component of a tiny lithium-tellurium battery along with assistant professor Jian Liu (right).

Fenix Advanced Materials spearheads high-tech research collaboration

Researchers at UBC Okanagan are collaborating with Fenix Advanced Materials of Trail, BC, to design and develop a battery that is smaller and more powerful than what’s currently available.

Using raw materials from BC-based companies such as Fenix, Teck Metals, Retriev Technologies, Eagle Graphite and Deer Horn Capital, the goal is to create a tellurium-based cathode—a tiny device that will be used to make all-solid-state, lithium-tellurium batteries. Tellurium—a rare metal byproduct of copper and lead-zinc smelting—has characteristics that will enable miniature, all-solid-state lithium-tellurium battery devices with both high energy density and a high safety rating.

Rapidly expanding use of portable electronics and the evolution of electric vehicles is driving global demand for smaller but more powerful battery technology, explains Jian Liu, an assistant professor in the School of Engineering at UBC Okanagan.

“Improvements are necessary thanks to many other emerging devices such as medical implants, wireless sensors and radio-frequency identification,” says Liu. “Due to the limited space and high-reliability requirements in these new devices, researchers are exploring technologies that possess high-energy density and more stable configurations.”

One tellurium atom can store two lithium ions and two electrons—making it a potent material for storing and releasing electricity.

“Due to its high density, tellurium provides a much higher volumetric capacity than other cathode materials, such as sulfur and selenium,” explains Liu. “With the advantages of high volumetric energy density and excellent safety, all-solid-state lithium-tellurium batteries have the potential to power high-end electronic applications where a smaller size, but higher energy output is required.”

Strategic partners of this new research collaboration are all members of Metal Tech Alley—a consortium of sustainable companies that encourage and support economic development in Southern BC.

Don Freschi, CEO of Fenix Advanced Materials, says the collaboration with UBCO will result in next-generation batteries that will have an added economic benefit.

“We want to utilize and add value to the raw materials readily available in our region especially from Fenix, Teck, Retriev, Eagle Graphite and Deer Horn,” says Freschi. “This can stimulate our rural economy and advance our technological capability through circular economy.”

The project and future spin-off projects aim to integrate the supply of raw materials with the development and manufacture of next-generation lithium-tellurium batteries in the BC Interior.

Additional collaborations between UBC, Fenix and other research institutions including the National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan and the Flemish Institute for Technological Research in Belgium are currently being discussed.

The research is possible through a Mitacs Accelerate Grant with partnership from Fenix Advanced Materials and Metal Tech Alley.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning in the heart of British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley. Ranked among the top 20 public universities in the world, UBC is home to bold thinking and discoveries that make a difference. Established in 2005, the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world.

To find out more, visit: ok.ubc.ca.



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