Developing sustainable and long-lasting solutions to meet our energy demands while preserving the quality of our environment is one of the grand challenges that society faces today. An essential part of attaining this goal is efficiently storing and releasing clean energy using rechargeable batteries and related technologies.

To this end, Professor Linda Nazar and Professor Michael Pope, researchers at the University of Waterloo, will build the Ontario Battery and Electrochemistry Research Centre (OBEC). This centre will be a hub for the vast battery and electrochemical researchers both at Waterloo and across Southern Ontario which houses the densest talent pool in Canada while enabling these researchers to effectively collaborate with the growing EV battery supply chain. This includes battery materials production, recycling, and advanced manufacturing.

“While there is an urgent need to train personnel for Li-ion battery processing for gigafactories being built nearby by giants like VW and Stellantis, it is equally important to develop the next generation of batteries which will be more sustainable, less expensive, safer and longer-lasting that Li-ion,” says Pope.

One of the unique features of the planned facility will be the unique tools enabling the more rapid development of next-generation technologies such as all-solid-state, metal-air batteries, metal-sulfur and those based on alternatives to lithium like sodium which is abundant and inexpensive (sodium is the main component of table salt).

OBEC will have infrastructure that includes an exclusive set of tools for discovering and characterizing novel electrode and electrolyte materials and tools to better interface these critical battery components together in more controlled and manufacturable ways.

“As we push the limits in terms of material performance, electrochemical energy systems become increasingly complex,” says Nazar “This makes it challenging, if not impossible, to fully understand the underlying science when conventional characterization methods are used.”

On the applied side, the centre will include an advanced battery fabrication facility with the manufacturing equipment necessary to fabricate larger format pouch and 18650 cells in a dry-room environment.

True to the entrepreneurial ecosystem at the University of Waterloo, the centre hopes to use this facility to help start-ups, small and medium-sized enterprises that focus on new electrode, electrolyte or membrane materials or manufacturing methods to demonstrate their solutions in formats which are closer to the real-world devices used to power cell phones or EVs.

The centre will also be a training hub for undergraduate and graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. This training will generate a future workforce with expertise in electrochemistry. Some graduate students are already being trained in Pope’s 2D-Mature International Training program.

“Given Waterloo’s proud achievements in graduate performance, the center has the potential to launch highly entrepreneurial young researchers and R&D specialists,” says Pope director of the 2D Materials and Electrochemical Devices Lab .

The centre and the research programs it will support will advance the development of more powerful energy storage systems, and lead innovations that build the Canadian knowledge base in electrochemical energy storage.

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