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Energy Transitions Research at the University of Cambridge

 
Professor Clare Grey awarded €1 million Körber Prize 2021

The Körber European Science Prize 2021, worth one million euros, is to be awarded to University of Cambridge chemist Professor Clare Grey, one of the UK’s leading battery researchers.

Professor Clare Grey, Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry, has been recognised by the Körber European Science for her work in battery storage. The Körber Foundation has honoured a breakthrough in the physical or life sciences in Europe with the Körber Prize. It is awarded for excellent and innovative research approaches with high application potential. To date, six Körber Prize winners have been awarded the Nobel Prize.

Professor Grey and her group are developing next-generation batteries, which include lithium-air (oxidation of lithium and reduction of oxygen to induce a current), sodium, magnesium and redox flow batteries. Through the research, Clare Grey co-founded Nyobolt in 2019, for ultra-fast charging batteries. 

 

"To achieve climate goals and transition away from fossil fuels, it is vital that basic research into new battery technologies is already in full swing today – tomorrow will be too late.”

Professor Clare Grey, Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry

 

 

Clare Grey pioneered the optimisation of batteries with the help of Nuclear Magnetic Resonanc (NMR) spectroscopy –similar to Magnetic Resonance Imaging technology – a method that allows non-invasive insights into the inner workings of batteries. Her NMR studies helped to significantly increase the performance of lithium-ion batteries, which power mobile phones, laptops and electric cars. She has been instrumental in the development of next-generation batteries and cost-effective, durable storage systems for renewable energy. She sees her fundamental research as an important contribution to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

 

"There have been significant advances in lithium-ion batteries since they were commercialised in the 1990s. Their energy density has tripled and prices have fallen by 90 percent.”

Professor Clare Grey, Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry

 

Professor Grey studied chemistry at the University of Oxford, having then reasearched at Radboud University in Nijmegen (Netherlands) and as a visiting scientist at the chemical company Dupont. She joined the State University of New York at Stony Brook as an assistant professor, becoming full professor in 2001. In 2009, she became Geoffrey Moorhouse Gibson Professor at the University of Cambridge’s Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry. She is a Fellow of Pembroke College, and Fellow of the Royal Society. During her research in the USA, Professor Grey was one of the first in her field to use solid state (NMR, at a time X-rays had been used to determine the internal structure of solids. It was during her time in the USA, she met researchers from the Duracell company who inspired her to use the technology to study materials in batteries.

 

"Previously, the usual investigations with X-rays only provided an average picture. With the help of NMR, I was able to detect the local structural details in these often-disordered materials.”

Professor Clare Grey, Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry

 

 

The work examined individual materials by way of opening batteries at specific stages of charge and discharge cycles. This provided the means to understand chemical process affecting battery aging and lifespan and pathways to increase capacity. 

The Körber European Science Prize 2021 will be presented to Professor Clare Grey on 10 September in the Great Festival Hall of Hamburg City Hall.

 

Read the full University of Cambridge article here.

Image credit: Gabriella Bocchetti, Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry