Lorna Casselton Memorial Lecture 2023

jeff dahn lorna casselton

The College was delighted to host one of the world’s foremost battery scientists, Professor Jeff Dahn (Dalhousie University), who gave the 9th Lorna Casselton Memorial Lecture on 4th May 2023.

Professor Dahn is one of the pioneers of the lithium-ion battery that today powers everything from laptops and mobile phones to electric cars world-wide and his lecture on ‘Modern Lithium-Ion Batteries: More than a Million Miles and Possibly a Century of Life’ crystallised how the future of battery research can directly tackle the challenge of reaching net zero. He began by giving a sense of the magnitude of global energy demand and just how far we are from reaching net zero without substantial research innovation in battery technology. According to Professor Dahn’s estimates, there is a global shortfall of some 400 terawatt-hours (TWh) of rechargeable battery capacity.

Battery life, or how long batteries last and can be charged and recharged on a daily basis, is key in bridging the gap. Despite the scale of the challenge, there is a way forward. In recent research, Professor Dahn and his collaborators identified a battery cell chemistry that could have the potential under certain conditions to power an electric vehicle for up to 1 million miles and last for up to twenty years. Because of his Tesla collaboration connection, this led to press headlines such as “Tesla battery researcher unveils new cell that could last 1 million miles in ‘robot taxis’”.  

Attention-grabbing headlines aside, Professor Dahn underlined that this type of battery design could enable net zero targets though the exchange of clean power between the batteries in people’s cars and national power grids called vehicle-to-grid charging. Professor Dahn then turned to the scarcity of lithium-ion battery materials, emphasising the greater sustainability of sodium-ion batteries needed to meet future global energy demand. As he went on to explain in conclusion at the end of his lecture, research into long life sodium-ion battery chemistries will be pivotal.

The Memorial Lecture concluded with a humorous vote of thanks to Professor Dahn by his long-time Oxford colleague, Professor Sir Peter Bruce from the Department of Materials. The lecture theatre was at full capacity with many in attendance from the academic battery research community not only from Oxford but also from other regional universities. Representatives of the UK automotive and battery industries also attended the lecture, making it a notable event in bringing together academia and industry on much needed solutions to the climate crisis.

The video of the lecture can be seen here https://www.stx.ox.ac.uk/event/modern-lithium-ion-batteries-more-than-a-million-miles-and-possibly-a-century-of-life