If you’re reading this on a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or as a passenger in an electric car, you have lithium-ion battery researchers to thank. Of those, Jeff Dahn is Canada’s leader in lithium-ion battery research and one of the world’s leading innovators in battery technology. Since his days as a graduate student, Dahn has been a pioneer in the research and development of the lithium-ion batteries that are commonplace in today’s mobile technology.
The work accomplished by the Dahn Lab at Dalhousie University has had an impact on nearly every aspect of lithium-ion battery research. From conducting fundamental studies on all of the materials used in lithium-ion batteries, to co-inventing some of the positive-electrode materials used in lithium-ion cells for power tools, grid energy storage and electric vehicles, Dahn’s research has contributed to making these long-lasting batteries part of our everyday lives.
Throughout his career, Dahn and his team have approached every challenge as an opportunity to improve lithium-ion battery technology. For instance, when faced with the problem of proving that lithium-ion batteries could be made to last 20 years, without actually waiting 20 years, Dahn and his team invented a high-precision tester that could accurately determine battery lifespan in a matter of weeks instead of decades. The new technology quickly caught the eye of lithium-ion battery manufacturers and original equipment manufacturers, leading Dahn’s graduate student Chris Burns to form a spin-off company (the second from the Dahn Lab) to supply the demand for this new machine.
In June of 2016, Tesla Motors, the world leader in electric-vehicle and grid energy-storage technology, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and Dalhousie University formed the NSERC/Tesla Canada Industrial Research Chair, with Dahn as the chairholder. This is the first and, to date, only time the company has partnered with a university researcher. Some of the goals of their collaboration are to develop lithium-ion batteries for automobiles and grid energy storage that are cheaper, more powerful and longer lasting, thus helping to ensure the wider adoption of electric vehicles and renewable energy.