Fraunhofer teams up for solid state lithium metal batteries

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty

The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research (ISC) in Würzburg, Germany have started a three-year joint research project with Empa in Dübendorf, Switzerland, to develop production-ready next generation traction batteries for electric cars.

Fraunhofer ISC is providing process development expertise in lithium conducting polymers as well as on the development of protective layers of sol-gel materials, as well as the battery cell production technology and will produce the first prototypes for the Interface Engineering for Safe and Sustainable High-Performance Batteries (IE4B) project. 

The project also includes German chemical company Heraeus, Swiss mechanical engineers ABB and the Bühler Group, US semiconductor equipment maker Applied Materials and battery maker Varta. The project is also part of a drive to reduce the dependence of the European electric car industry on batteris from Asian suppliers who currently dominate production. 

Solid state batteries do not require flammable liquid electrolytes and so have significantly improved operational reliability. They also provide advantages in terms of size and weight, because less complex safety housing is required. In addition, the use of metallic anode material (lithium) instead of the graphite anodes commonly used today in solid-state batteries promises both higher energy density and significantly shorter charging times.

While the individual components (anode, cathode, electrolyte) of future solid state batteries have already been well investigated in the laboratory, the challenge is to integrate them into a stable integrated system. It is important to achieve a long service life with high performance over as many charging and discharging cycles as possible, in order to outperform today’s conventional battery systems.

EMPA will develop the solid state electrolytes as well as focussing on the production and characterization of thin films with customized electronic properties, and the development of nanostructured anode materials. The first phase deals with basic aspects and uses battery model systems manufactured using thin-film methods at Empa and ISC. In this first phase, the processes taking place at the interfaces between cathode, solid state electrolyte and anode are to be precisely understood and monitored.

In the second phase, this knowledge will be used to manufacture a functional solid-state cell with the process engineering expertise of the Fraunhofer ISC that will be produced in a small series. “Our common goal is not only to have a better understanding of the interfaces, but also to be able to transfer this knowledge into a manufacturing process,” said Henning Lorrmann, head of the Fraunhofer Research and Development Centre for Electromobility in Bavaria (FZEB) at the Fraunhofer ISC.

Pierangelo Gröning, member of Empa’s board of directors, is one of the project coordinators. He emphasizes the strategic importance of the project. “The structure of the lithium-ion solid state battery is very complex and a major challenge for materials science. Through this cooperation, we are combining outstanding expertise in materials science and process engineering – and this is precisely what is required to successfully advance the development of the solid state battery,” he said.;

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