Germany’s Centre for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research in Baden-Württemberg (ZSW) has broken ground on a new pilot plant to manufacture cathode materials for lithium-ion batteries.
The Ulm Science Park project, Powder-Up!, will take 12 months to complete. It will have capacity to produce material batches up to 100 kilograms, needed to manufacture large-format battery cells for electric cars or stationary storage. There will be around 2,500 square metres of floor space.
ZSW said in a statement the facility will be the first of its kind in Europe to enable researchers to develop and refine the individual production steps for these materials under factory-like conditions.
The ground-breaking ceremony took place on 18 November. The state of Baden-Württemberg is providing around €10 million in funding for construction.
ZSW said small quantities of new-and-improved materials suffice for early prototypes, but advanced development requires up to 100 kilograms. Industrial manufacturers are reluctant to share such large quantities of state-of-the-art, high-performance materials with universities and research institutes, it said.
“The research community lacks an independent, non-industrial manufacturing facility that can produce quantities beyond research institutes’ typical capacity,” the body said.
ZSW’s new pilot plant will be equipped to produce battery materials in quantities from 10 to 100 kilograms. It claims to be the first non-industrial facility in Europe with this capacity.
This factory will cover the entire process chain, and also enable researchers to investigate individual stages of production. Institutes and battery manufacturers will be able to use materials produced in the pilot plant – particularly the cathode materials – for their research.
Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research will fund the pilot plant’s machinery and equipment. It committed in November 2021 to provide ZSW around €20 million.
“Powder-Up! provides the underpinning for Germany to hold its own in battery research and development for years to come – especially against Asian competitors. The large lab going up at the Ulm Science Park will be a unique asset to battery research in Germany,” ZSW said.