Materials scientists at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering, led by Bruce Dunn, who holds UCLA’s Nippon Sheet Glass Company Chair, and Morris Wang, along with colleagues at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have been selected to receive a $900,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to demonstrate a new design and 3D-printing process for manufacturing lithium-ion batteries. 

Dunn is a professor of materials science and engineering and as of Aug. 1 interim dean of the engineering school. He will serve as the principal investigator of the project, which is part of a $57.9 million program to fund research into clean energy technologies. Wang, who is also a professor of materials science and engineering, is the co-principal investigator.

The team’s eventual goal is to improve lithium-ion batteries by increasing the available power, speeding up charging and making them cheaper to manufacture while wasting less material in the process. 3D printing allows for the creation of a more intricate interior battery structure that can store more power — a development critical to the new manufacturing process.

Lithium-ion batteries, with their excellent energy-to-weight ratios, are already ubiquitous in phones, laptops, electric vehicles and a range of other consumer products. However, there are limits to the power they can provide and how fast they can be charged.