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Ohio State, industry partners earn DOE award to advance EV technology

Jung-Hyun Kim, assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, is a research partner on a $2.5-million grant Lewis Center, Ohio-based Nexceris received from the Department of Energy to develop the next generation of electric vehicle batteries.

Jung-Hyun KimJung-Hyun KimThe project, “Cobalt-free LNMTO spinel cathode materials,” is one of 42 research projects sponsored through the DOE program aiming to shore up U.S. energy security by supporting the development and commercialization of affordable, energy-efficient transportation technologies.

Increased energy efficiency plays no small part in the stability and growth of an economy driven by transportation. The average U.S. household spent about one-sixth of its total expenditures on transportation in 2017, according to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics survey. That year, 11 billion tons of freight were transported by vehicles, with about $35 billion in products shipping each day, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

Demand for battery materials is also expected to increase as interest in electrical vehicles grows within the transportation industry.

Kim, who was recruited to The Ohio State University through the Institute for Materials Research-led Materials & Manufacturing for Sustainability Discovery Theme, will focus on developing materials to supplant prohibitively high-cost materials, such as cobalt, used in electric vehicle batteries. Cobalt is vital to the performance of lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries, but recent increases in demand and price have resulted in shortages and concern about its outlook.

“Our work over the next three years will pave the way to a new generation cathode of Li-ion batteries,” Kim said. “Our goal is to develop low-cost cathode materials with high energy and power and demonstrate it using prototype battery cells with 2 Ah capacity, which can significantly impact Li-ion battery markets, mainly for EV applications.”

Nexceris provides products and services in fuel cell materials, design and monitoring for energy storage. Another project partner, Navitas Advanced Solutions Group, designs and manufactures energy storage products and systems for both private- and public-sector customers.

Kim called the partnership a good marriage of industry and academia, one integral for a successful project so large in scale. The group will start from scratch, in a sense, researching and developing the cathode materials, then testing their application for Li-ion batteries capable of achieving a target cell performance.

“I am very excited about this award,” Kim said. “The proposed concept is what I have devoted my passion and research efforts to during my career. I am also grateful that I have good collaboration opportunities with my respected industry partners, Nexceris and Navitas, through this award, which can make a synergy in terms of future impacts such as technology commercialization and marketing.”

Institute for Materials Research (IMR) helped connect Nexceris with Ohio State researchers working in energy storage after Bill Dawson, co-founder of Nexceris, expressed his interest during the 2018 Ohio State Materials Week conference. Dawson, a chemical engineering alumnus, had previously established the Nexceris Materials Scholarship to support engineering students at Ohio State interested in fuel cell technology.

“Establishing mutually beneficial partnerships with companies like Nexceris is critical for our faculty and community to solve challenges related to U.S. energy security,” said IMR Director of Innovation Jay Sayre. “We are extremely excited to foster this collaboration.”

by Mike Huson, Institute for Materials Research