Centre for Energy Materials Research

The University of Oxford leads on the theme of electrochemical energy storage theme with Henry Royce Institute partners.

The primary focus for research is on next-generation materials for electrochemical energy storage – for use in rechargeable batteries, also known as secondary batteries.

The research facilities for fabrication, testing and characterisation of electrochemical storage materials are available for collaborative research or for technician-supported access. The main equipment capabilities and facilities are summarised in the sections below.

Robert House - Meet the researcher

Electrochemical energy storage

Typical workflow for the manufacture and test of an air-sensitive solid-state cell

workflow for manufacture and test of air sensitive cell

Workflow for air-sensitive materials systems

Solid state battery (SSB) cell fabrication starts with a heat box, to dry all precursor materials. Then powders of controlled composition are synthesized from the precursor materials under an inert, controlled atmosphere. Work must be carried out under an inert environment due to high reactivity even at very low atmospheric humidity.

simplified ssb manufacturing workflow jpg

Workflow for solid-state cell fabrication

High-energy ball-milling is widely used for the synthesis of different types of conductors. During high-energy ball-milling, the precursor materials undergo a combined process of mixing, pulverization, amorphization, and solid-state reaction. This allows the synthesis of a variety of materials at room temperature. Ball-milling is also an important tool for the precise grinding and blending of powders before the subsequent processing of electrodes and electrolytes. This applies particularly to solid-state batteries where mixing electrolyte and electrode powder can be used to create ionic pathways at the anode or cathode side.

The facilities enable the fabrication of SSB cells with a controlled architecture of the electrolyte in conjunction with the anode and cathode, which will take a significant step forward with the new addition of an appropriate ball mill capability in a glovebox.

Fabrication of electrochemical energy storage devices

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Extensive glovebox handling facilities include load-locks and transfer ports. Key pieces of equipment are installed within the controlled environment, to enable processing of air-sensitive materials.

Sample preparation steps – including weighing, pouch sealing and cell crimping – can be carried out in an inert atmosphere. Argon gas is used to minimise the presence of oxygen and water vapour.

MBraun glovebox suites

royce oxford glovebox room

Several evaporations and sputter deposition systems are available, for the coating and metallization of small sample areas. A rotating substrate holder helps to ensure even distribution. Deposition systems incorporate plasma cleaning,
programmed shutter opening, and deposition time, with a crystal thickness monitor.

Deposition chambers are housed in gloveboxes with an inert (argon) atmosphere, with low concentrations of oxygen and water vapor. Access to these gloveboxes is made using load locks and sealed sample transfer containers, to help
protect air-sensitive materials.

A list of standard sputter targets and evaporation metals is available on request.

The following Meet the Researcher videos offer an introduction to key techniques and instruments. 



MB Provap-5

Physical vapour deposition in inert atmosphere

A 3D printer ^ and nanoscriber ^ are available, for the production of frameworks and fine structures.

The Flashforge Creator Pro ^ is a dual-extrusion 3D printer that uses flush deposition modeling. The build volume is 227 x 148 x 150mm, with positioning precision of 11 microns (X-Y) and 2.5 microns on the Z-axis. Layer resolution is 100~500 microns.

The two Photonic Professional GT laser lithography systems support 3D micro printing and maskless lithography.

The Nextrode project is investigating techniques for fabricating graded electrode structures and is establishing facilities and protocols to support this research at the Begbroke Advanced Processing Laboratory. Techniques include a hot wax inkjet screen printer and film coater in an inert atmosphere glovebox.



Nanoscribe and 3D printer

3D printer and nanoscribe

Tube furnaces and a variety of powder handling, weighing, and milling facilities are available, to support the preparation of electrochemical storage cells.

Royce Oxford furnace letter

Press with Digital Programmable Pressure Controller, in Argon glovebox

Controlled press in glovebox

Built-in load cell with a digital display for pressure measurement and control
Digital control panel for programmable pressure and dwell time

Pressure adjustment range: 0.1-5T Pressure accuracy: +/- 0.003T
Time setting: 1 - 999 minutes



Standard button/coin cell and pouch cell formats can be fabricated.

Coin cells enable rapid discovery and high density cycling tests.

Pouch cells are useful when scaling up and for investigations examining performance across an extended area.

coin and pouch format cells


Analysis workflow for electrochemical storage devices

For SSBs and sensitive Li-ion battery materials, testing and disassembly must take place in a glovebox environment.

In operando techniques include XRD and FTIR. Other analysis techniques, such as XPS, NMR, and electron microscopy tools and associated sample preparation techniques are accessed using inert gas transfer cassettes.

workflow for analysis of energy storage devices

Analysis of storage cells


Characterisation of electrochemical energy storage devices

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The Horiba LA960A measures the diffraction of laser light to determine the particle size distribution in a sample. It includes an autosampler for high-throughput measurements.

The instrument incorporates two light sources, a sample handling system and a photodiode array, which detects light scattered over a wide range of angles. Requiring only microgram quantities of samples, particle sizes can be determined over the range of 10nm to 5mm, with an accuracy of +0.6%.

Horiba LA960A

horiba la960a with autosampler

Combining a thermogravimetric analyser (TGA) with a mass spectrometer (MS) and autosampler, the Netzsch STA 449 F3 Jupiter allows the measurement of mass changes and thermal effects over a wide temperature range. 

Netzsch STA449F3

Differential scanning calorimetry


This high-throughput optical spectroscopy instrument can be operated in a number of modes, including absorbance, luminescence and fluorescence.

Multiple samples can be tested rapidly using the plate reader.

Environmental control holds the samples at target temperatures from 4degC above ambient up to 45degC.

Spectramax i3x

Spectramax i3x multi mode detection platform


The InVia Qontor incorporates focus tracking capability, enabling analysis of samples with rough, uneven, or curved surfaces. 

The spectrometer operates with both 633nm and 785nm excitation directed to an inverted stage. The 785nm source can also be directed into a glovebox using a fibre optic probe, to allow in situ Raman microscopy under an inert/controlled atmosphere.

Renishaw InVia Raman microscope


Gas chromotography with autosampler.

Thermo Scientific Trace 1300

Trace 1300 gas chromatograph


The Perkin-Elmer Optima 8000 ^ includes dual-view capability, allowing measurements of both high and low concentrations in the same run.

Our system supports continuous plasma viewing, has a shear gas system to eliminate interference, and CCD detectors to improve accuracy.

Perkin-Elmer Optima 8000


Electrochemical testing.

BioLogic MPG-2 and SP-150
Electrochemical testing



X-ray diffraction equipment includes hot stage and in operando capabilities, and a Rigaku MiniFlex 600 XRD in a glovebox - which can be used to investigate air-sensitive materials.

Our Rigaku Smartlab systems ^ provide X-ray generation at 3 kW (for sealed X-ray tubes) and 9 kW (for PhotonMax rotating anodes)

  • The 3 kW unit has a tube voltage variable range of 20 – 60kV and a tube voltage range of 2 – 50 mA
  • The 9 kW system has a voltage range of 20 – 45 kV and a current range of 10 – 200 mA. 

The 9kW instrument is also equipped with a sample observation camera, an X-Y translation stage (X, Y +/- 50mm), a micro-focus optics unit (CBO-f), and a HyPix-3000 next-generation 2D semiconductor detector. This detector has a large active area of approximately 3000 mm² with a small pixel size of 100 μm², resulting in high spatial resolution. As a single photon counting X-ray detector offers a high count rate (greater than 10⁶ cps/pixel), a fast readout speed, and very low detector noise.

The Rigaku Miniflex combines electrochemical in situ tools with a controlled atmosphere environment.

The PDXL software suite provides various analysis tools such as automatic phase identification, quantitative analysis, crystallite-size analysis, lattice constants refinement, Rietveld analysis, ab initio structure determination, etc.

Rigaku XRD

Royce Oxford X-ray diffraction equipment

The Phi XPS VersaProbe III is a highly automated, high-resolution X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy instrument which uses a scanned, focused, monochromatic X-ray beam specifically designed for spatially-resolved chemical state analysis.

Beam rastering enables the acquisition of secondary electron images and XPS data from the same locations. 

The multi-channel detector and fast electronics boost sensitivity and allow rapid data collection. The XPS includes an argon-ion gun.

Joshua Gibson - Meet the researcher


PhiXPS VersaProbe III

X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) equipment


Nano-impedance atomic force microscope in an inert environment.

Bruker Dimension Icon scanning probe microscope

Bruker Dimension Icon scanning probe microscope


Oxford Instruments’ X-Pulse benchtop NMR spectrometer. Used to characterise the behaviour of a wide range of different elements within novel battery material formulations during electrochemical processes. Development of in-operando NMR operation in an inert glovebox environment.

Benchtop nmr

Oxford Instruments' X-Pulse benchtop NMR

nmr benchtop

Benchtop NMR in glovebox.

The following Meet the researcher videos offer an introduction to key techniques and instruments

Meet the Researcher - Mengjiang Lin


Lab-based X-ray Absorption Spectrometer (XAS) – optimised for Pt, Ir, Ni, Cu, Fe absorption edges (selected based on community consultation regarding elements most relevant for electrocatalysis). This is a new lab-based capability that is being commissioned for future access by the UK community. It offers performance approaching that of synchrotron beamlines. The instrument geometry of the easyXAFS allows both operando cells and ex situ samples to be accommodated. At present, mechanistic studies are often performed at central facilities where access is irregular and highly oversubscribed.

Lab-based XAS

EasyXAFS lab-based XAS system

Testing electrochemical energy storage devices

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Impedance analysis testing over a wide frequency range enables the mobility of ions and carriers to be determined in an electrochemical device.

impedance analyser


Multichannel cycling capability, for testing button cells in a temperature-controlled environment.

Multichannel cycling


The MSR rotator controller rotates an electrode in an electrochemical cell for rotation rates from 50 to 10,000 rpm.

Electrochemical measurements can be made for rotating disk electrode (RDE), rotating ring-disk electrode (RRDE), and rotating cylinder electrode (RDE) geometries. 

Rotating electrode


Testing elastic modulus at the small scale, the pico-indenter combines scanning electron microscope imaging with electron back-scattering, to identify grain orientation.

The instrument is housed in a glovebox, to maintain an inert atmosphere.

Picoindenter in glovebox


Research activity

Take a virtual tour of the facilities in the Centre for Energy Materials Research



Electrochemical storage device research groups

The Royce equipment in the Department of Materials at the University of Oxford is used by a number of research groups working on electrochemical energy storage devices.

The following links highlight key areas of research by these groups.

Peter Bruce's research group

Mauro Pasta's research group

Patrick Grant's Processing of Advanced Materials Group

Robert Weatherup

Chris Grovenor

Robert House

The Faraday Institution

In support of The Faraday Institution’s energy storage research priorities, the Royce has provided state-of-the-art equipment to several Faraday Institution university research teams, including those at Oxford, Sheffield, Manchester, and Cambridge. In this way, the Royce Institute and the Faraday Institution are working together to develop the next generation of energy storage solutions to benefit the UK.

Led by researchers at the University of Oxford, two of the current Faraday Institution projects benefit from the facilities and advanced equipment funded through the Royce.

SOLBAT project

Nextrode project

These projects include a number of industrial partners and they form part of a wider program supported by the Faraday Institution.

Some equipment marked ^ was not funded through a Royce capital equipment grant.