30 July 2021

Professor Corr wins the 2021 ISIS Science Impact Award

The winner of the ISIS Science Impact Award is Professor Serena Corr for her work applying muon spin relaxation spectroscopy to investigating ion diffusion in battery materials.

Professor Serena Corr

​Professor Corr and her team have advanced the application of muon spin relaxation spectroscopy (µSR) to investigating ion diffusion across a range of industrially-relevant battery materials. This included the first in-situ µSR study of a functioning battery cell permitting the study of diffusion processes occurring within individual battery components at different states of charge, and most recently in developing a protocol for studying real batteries in operation using µSR.

The team, in collaboration with ISIS Instrument Scientist Dr Peter Baker, began with investigations into olivine cathodes, the positive electrode materials recently introduced in Tesla's Model 3, for which existing lithium diffusion property measurements spanned orders of magnitude. These studies, in good agreement with first principles studies, illustrated the benefit of applying µSR to interrogate ion diffusion across a breadth of these materials.

The team then investigated ceramic candidate solid electrolytes, safer alternatives to traditional liquid electrolytes, developing novel microwave chemistry methods to prepare the samples. Again using µSR, the results demonstrated the critical importance of applying multiple techniques to holistically probe diffusion properties. The next step was applying both µSR and neutron total scattering methods to a new class of safer solid electrolyte double perovskite materials, which the team synthetically realised and characterised using lattice-matching approaches to deliver a novel candidate solid state battery.

Having developed this extensive expertise, the team then turned its attention to successfully demonstrating the application of µSR to determining ion transport properties in polyatomic anionic cathodes containing fluoride ions. These were previously unexplored using muons due to potential muon-fluoride interactions making ion diffusion study difficult. Work then followed to uncover ion transport properties in next-generation cathodes, including doped high-nickel and disordered rock salt high-energy-density cathodes. Most recently, the team has developed a new cell and testing protocol for µSR investigations of materials within operating batteries for the first time. This technique provides new insights on crucial diffusion properties including ion diffusion in solid electrolytes and interfaces during operation.

µSR has emerged as an invaluable tool for the microscopic investigation of ionic motion in crystalline solids, e.g. in the study of intrinsic ionic conduction in electrode or solid electrolyte materials. The scientific impact delivered by the team's efforts is in determining diffusion and local structure properties of energy storage materials and in developing new in-situ methods to interrogate ion diffusion in these during operation. Their new battery cell for in-situ muon investigations was developed through an ISIS Facility Development Studentship held by Mr Innes McClelland and co-supervised by Corr, Baker and Dr Eddie Cussen, which has provided a new capability now available to (and being taken up by) the research community, for example, researchers at the Faraday Institution.

The team led by Professor Corr has demonstrated how non-destructive µSR will pave the way for following transport behaviour across emerging interfaces and provide insights to those researchers tailoring interfaces for optimising ion transport. These insights and the capability developed through her work has benefited both facility technique development and the wide community of international researchers working on next-generation battery materials. 

Evidence of Impact

Media coverage

Mar 2021 - “Call for a vision to translate UK battery research to industrial outcomes", Science Business

Nov 2019 - “Lithium-ion batteries remade the world - they need to change", OneZero,

Nov 2019 - Filmed for Electric Vehicles piece on ITV news

Sep 2019 - “FutureCat plugs into next generation of lithium-ion batteries", The Engineer,

November 2018 “Everything you need to know about lithium-ion batteries", The Telegraph

Jul 2018 - “How long will an electric car's battery last?", The Telegraph

Science Communication and Public Engagement

Royal Institution lecture, “The Hunt for New Batteries", Oct 2020 (>32K YouTube views)

The Battery Inside Out", Jun 2019 (>109K YouTube views)

Nov 2018 - Featured in Royal Albert Hall exhibition on “Illuminating atoms" celebrating the 2014 International Year of Crystallography

Policy contributions

House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee, gave evidence for its inquiry into the Role of batteries and fuel cells in achieving Net-Zero,

Mar 2021 - Royal Society Net Zero Aviation workshop,

Dec 2020 - ISCF battery challenge Cross-government workshop

Sep 2020 - Faraday Institution Masterclass on Synthesis and Operando Characterisation,

Jun 2020 - 2nd China-UK Policy Dialogue on Energy Storage,

Jan 2019 - Roundtable discussion with UK Committee on Climate Change,

Scientific impact

Over 60 invited/plenary/keynote talks at (inter)national conferences and seminars.

Publications include:

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