Chemicals firm Wacker Chemie has upped its interest in the silicon anode market with the purchase of a 25% stake in UK firm Nexeon.
The German firm has also invested an undisclosed sum into the Oxfordshire company that develops and supplies battery materials for rechargeable lithium-ion batteries.
Wacker has been conducting research into silicon anodes since 2010 and has cooperated with Nexeon for around a decade.
Christian Hartel, responsible for R&D on Wacker’s executive board, said: “The agreement is a key step in strengthening our activities in silicon-based anode materials for next-generation batteries by putting them on an even broader base.
“On one hand, it means we can intensify and further develop our own research in this field. On the other hand, this stake reinforces our cooperation with Nexeon as we jointly develop supplementary material strategies.
Silicon is increasingly used to replace carbon in the anodes because of its potential to boost a conventional graphite battery anode’s capacity by 10 times and volumetric energy by three times; benefits that would allow electric vehicles to achieve greater driving range.
The use of silicon anodes allows battery makers to make 10-25% improvements in the cell’s energy density.
Dr Bill Macklin, Nexeon’s chief engineer, told BEST Battery Briefing that silicon, used in some form, was on the roadmap of all automotive companies and major manufacturers.
He said: “Silicon is pretty much on everybody’s roadmap, so it’s a question of when, not if. The challenge is in the expansion of the silicon, so people are engineering silicon into the design to offset the traditional problems of expansion and degradation.
“The roadmap becomes fuzzy when looking further out at solid-state and fuel cells, but up to 2025-30 we will be looking at lithium-ion batteries as we know them but with some changes to the chemistry such as increasing the silicon content.
“The question is how far can you push the silicon content.”
Dr Scott Brown, CEO of Nexeon, said: “The expertise of a strong manufacturing partner is especially useful as we plan the ramp up of our materials supply in volume and speed terms. We look forward to working even more closely with our partners in the coming months.”
Earlier this year BEST reported how Nexeon had launched its SPICE project to extend the system compatibility of silicon anode materials.
It followed last year’s $9.5 million investment from the UK government’s Innovate UK agency to support research into silicon-based materials