HPC Wales has secured a lucrative contract to provide its services to an international research project seeking to expand the lifetime of batteries powered by renewable energy.

The contract, worth £100,000 and creating two new jobs, will see HPC Wales, the UK’s largest distributed supercomputing network, support a research project examining stationary batteries required to meet the demands of the energy industry and play a key role within the national electrical grid.

The SIRBATT (Stable Interfaces for Rechargeable Batteries) Project, led by Liverpool University, is a three-year European-funded collaboration between six universities and five private sector companies across Europe.

David Craddock, chief executive officer of HPC Wales, said: “We are delighted to announce our new contract with Liverpool University, bringing further inward investment into Wales for the purchase of technological facilities.

“With the support of supercomputing, the SIRBATT project will make crucial progress in the creation of longer-lasting green energy resources in the UK for everyone.

“As HPC Wales’ network can be accessed remotely, increasing numbers of businesses and academics are benefiting from its power, and we hope more will follow suit in the next 12 months.”

As part of international efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, power companies have turned to renewable energy sources such as wind, wave and solar. However, the power supplied by these sources is intermittent, as it depends on external variables, so researchers are examining new methods of storing energy and releasing it on demand.

Scientists believe that rechargeable batteries could be a solution to this problem, with lithium-ion batteries able to provide uninterruptible power supply and high-quality power and distribution. However, SIRBATT researchers believe their current shelf life needs to be extended by at least five times, at a price point that is ultimately affordable by the energy industry.

Currently available batteries – used to offer extended levels of power during times of high demand, or as a backup power source during a blackout – only last up to five years on average, and the high cost to replace the units is covered by the taxpayer.

The SIRBATT project will explore the issues that currently limit the lifespan of batteries used in stationary battery storage. Using supercomputing, powered by HPC Wales, for modeling and simulation purposes, the project will perform advanced calculations to isolate the chemical processes that cause the battery to degrade. Researchers will then seek to provide a preventative solution to ensure the longer life of lithium-ion batteries in the future.

Part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government, HPC Wales is committed to boosting the Welsh economy by providing academic researchers and businesses with some of the most advanced computing technology in the world.