Researchers from the University of Waterloo are launching a new battery research centre that will play a crucial role in developing the electric vehicles of tomorrow.

The Ontario Battery and Electrochemistry Research Centre (OBEC), led by Waterloo researchers Linda Nazar and Michael Pope, will be Canada’s newest facility tasked with advancing next-generation electric vehicle battery development.

“While there is an urgent need to train people to work on the next-generation EV battery gigafactories being built here in Canada by the likes of Volkswagen, Stellantis, Umicore and BASF, it is equally important to develop these next generation technologies and help local industry meet growing market demand,” said Pope, a professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and director of Waterloo’s 2D Materials and Elecectrochemical Devices Lab.

“These batteries, however, will be more sustainable, less expensive, safer and longer-lasting that the Li-ion batteries we see today.”

OBEC’s initial funding is sourced from a $5 million investment earmarked to tackle national and global challenges made by the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and Waterloo. It will also host other Ontario-based battery and electrochemical researchers to collaborate across various supply chain needs such as battery materials production, recycling, and advanced manufacturing.

The facility will look to advance research across all-solid-state, metal-air batteries, metal-sulfur, and those batteries based on alternatives to lithium like sodium, an abundant and inexpensive material. Researchers will have access to dedicated tools they can use to help discover novel electrode and electrolyte materials while interfacing with critical battery components in a dry-room environment. This will include an advanced battery fabrication facility with the ability to manufacture large format pouch and cylindrical cells.

“As we push the limits in terms of material performance, electrochemical energy systems become increasingly complex,” said Nazar, a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Canada Research Chair in Solid State Energy Materials.

“This makes it challenging, if not impossible, to fully understand the underlying science that is necessary to push the science and technology forward when conventional characterization methods are used.”

True to the entrepreneurial spirit at Waterloo, both Nazar and Pope hope the OBEC will help support start-ups and larger businesses to focus on developing new electrode, electrolyte, or membrane materials or novel manufacturing methods to demonstrate new products that could power next-generation vehicles.

The OBEC will also help train Waterloo’s undergraduate and graduate students as well as post-doctoral fellows to advance their expertise in electrochemistry. Some graduate students are already being trained in Pope’s program which trains international graduate students in scalable 2D-materials architectures and Nazar’s Ontario Research Fund project on electrochemical solid state energy storage batteries.

“Given Waterloo’s proud achievements in graduate performance, the centre has the potential to launch highly entrepreneurial young researchers and R&D specialists,” said Pope.

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