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Building better batteries: modelling and optimisation of electrode filling

Supervisors: Ferran Brosa Planella and Radu Cimpeanu


Manufacturing not only has a significant impact on battery performance and lifetime, but also on cost and environmental impact. A key process (yet not a well-studied one) is the filling, in which a liquid electrolyte is incorporated into the battery, occupying the pores in the electrodes. It requires keeping the battery at high temperatures for days, becoming a very expensive process both in terms of time and energy usage. In this project, you will have the opportunity to build exciting new capabilities for modelling and optimisation of electrode filling, with a potential to energise our understanding of battery manufacturing.


Electrolyte Filling requires keeping the battery at high temperatures for several days, becoming a very expensive step in battery manufacturing (both in terms of energy and time). In addition, if the electrodes are not fully wetted, the performance of the battery diminishes substantially. Therefore, understanding and optimising electrode wetting is key to improving battery performance and reduce the manufacturing cost, but this has mainly been addressed from the experimental side.

The focus of this project is on developing new models for electrode wetting, which can be used to understand and optimise this manufacturing process. We will start with standard models for flow in porous media and adapt them to the particularities of electrode wetting. Such models can later be extended to describe more complex phenomena, such as solvent penetration during the recycling process, or gas formation during the battery operation. The project will be in collaboration with the Energy Materials Group (U. of Birmingham), which will provide experimental data and expertise on the manufacturing process. For the success of this project, a combination of analytical (e.g. asymptotic analysis) and numerical approaches (e.g. finite volume methods) will be required to implement and validate the wetting models. It will be fundamental to deploy the implementations of the models so other researchers and industry can use them, thus the models will be built upon established packages such as PyBaMM and Basilisk. Along with the models, parameterisation tools will be developed and will incorporate uncertainty quantification, which is necessary given the stochasticity of the porous materials.

Links to HetSys Training:

Modules such as PX911 (for modelling framework interaction across scales), PX912 (for a solid foundation in fluid dynamics), PX913 (for advanced computational skills), and PX914 (to learn key skills in uncertainty quantification) will provide fundamental technical skills. Furthermore, the experience on interdisciplinary collaborations developed during the first year will be fundamental for a successful engagement with the project partners.This project has a strong interdisciplinary component as it will require close collaboration with experimentalists. This will be a two-way engagement, so it will be an excellent opportunity for the PhD student to apply and further develop the interdisciplinary communication and collaboration skills acquired during the HetSys training.

The electrodes are made of various materials and there is a lot of uncertainty in their physical properties which cascades to the battery performance. Accounting for uncertainty in the models will be crucial for providing reliable guidelines on how to reduce the manufacturing cost while ensuring a correct performance.

As demonstrated by the success of PyBaMM, the battery community is eager to adopt new software tools if they are robust, well- documented and easy to use. This project aims to extend these tools to include battery manufacturing, so good programming practices will be indispensable.

Are you interested in applying for this project? Head over to our Study with Us page for information on the application process, and the HetSys training programme.

For the 2023/24 academic year, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funding is open to both UK and International research students. Awards pay a stipend to cover maintenance as well as paying the university fees and providing a research training support grant. For further details, please visit the HetSys Funding Page

At the University of Warwick, we strongly value equity, diversity and inclusion, and HetSys will provide a healthy working environment dedicated to outstanding scientific guidance, mentorship and personal development. Read more about life in the HetSys CDT here.

HetSys is proud to be a part of the Physics Department which holds an Athena SWAN Silver award, a national initiative to promote gender equality for all staff and students. The Physics Department is also a Juno Champion, which is an award from the Institute of Physics to recognise our efforts to address the under-representation of women in university physics and to encourage better practice for both women and men.