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Materials firm plans lithium-ion battery material plant in US

Wed, 09/01/2021 - 11:59 -- Paul Crompton
Specialty materials firm Unifrax plans today to build its first large-scale SiFAB

Specialty materials firm Unifrax plans today to build its first large-scale SiFAB (silicon fiber anode material) manufacturing line in the US.

The New York-headquartered manufacturer plans to build the facility in the state of Indiana by the end of 2023.

It is the first time Unifrax has taken a step into developing silicon fiber for the lithium-ion battery manufacturing market. 

SiFAB is being tested in multiple battery systems, with Unifrax expecting results to show the material delivers faster charges and longer battery life for applications including electric vehicles, and energy grid storage.

The Indiana plant will be the first to begin building SiFAB long-term manufacturing capacity. 

John Dandolph, Unifrax president and CEO, said the ability to leverage their existing facility and add new infrastructure to support manufacturing would “significantly accelerate” the timeline for supplying to material to its partners.

Chad Cannan, senior vice president R&D, said: “We designed SiFAB from its inception to be manufactured at large scale so that we could supply all market segments (EV’s, consumer electronics, power tools, and renewable storage), utilise our existing global manufacturing footprint, and deliver a product that has a high degree of quality and consistency.”

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Toyocolor to supply CNT to and SK Innovations European plants

Thu, 07/15/2021 - 15:18 -- Paul Crompton
Lioaccum series of conductive carbon nanotube (CNT) dispersions

Functional materials firm Toyocolor is set to supply carbon nanotubes to Korea’s lithium-ion battery maker SK Innovations’ plants in the US and Europe.

Toyocolor, the colorants and functional materials division of Japan’s Toyo Ink Group, will supply its Lioaccum series of conductive carbon nanotube (CNT) dispersions. 

Lioaccum dispersions are used as the conductive additive in lithium-ion cathodes to expand battery capacity that enables electric vehicles to increase driving distances and charge faster. 

In this instance, the CNT’s will be used in lithium-ion batteries for Volkswagen Group and the Ford Motor Company.

Toyocolor said in a statement that its researchers in Japan had achieved high conductivity levels by replacing carbon black in the battery cathode with a small amount of Lioaccum CNT dispersions as the conductive additive.

At present, Toyocolor is providing SK Innovation with Lioaccum dispersions produced at its plant in Georgia, US.

Supply to SK Innovation’s European plants is due to move to Toyo Ink Hungary, in Hungary, in the first quarter of next year. 

Toyo Ink SC Holdings, the parent company of the Toyo Ink Group, plans to invest around 10 billion yen ($9990 million) up to 2026, to strengthen its global battery dispersions production network. 

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BCI and CBI release report to guide the US’ lead battery development

Thu, 07/15/2021 - 15:12 -- Paul Crompton

Two lead battery organisations have prepared a joint roadmap that identifies 13 key areas for the advancement of the next generation lead batteries.

Trade association Battery Council International (BCI) and research organisation Consortium for Battery Innovation’s (CBI) report positions lead batteries at the heart of the US’ decarbonisation goals.

The ‘Lead Battery Grand Challenge’ roadmap was authored in response to the calls from the US Department of Energy (DOE) for greater levels of advanced energy storage, including batteries.

The roadmap highlights the opportunities for the US lead battery industry, in particular how to secure future opportunities for research and funding as well as targets for increasing the performance of lead batteries. Read the full report here 

Those targets include: increasing cycle life by 1,000 (at 80% and 100% depth of discharge), round trip efficiency (82% to 88%), acquisition costs (from $135/kWh to $35) and operating costs ($0.09/kWh/cycle down to $0.025).

The industry’s goal is to innovate and improve lead battery performance for key markets, such as residential and commercial demand reduction and load response for solar generation.

Lead battery energy storage solutions have intrinsic safety measures, are highly sustainable, manufactured domestically and meet the technoeconomic needs of the US utility sector for decarbonisation and distribution of the US grid. 

Roger Miksad, executive vice president of BCI, said: “This roadmap identifies key research areas which offer opportunities for the next generation of advanced lead batteries to deliver significant performance gains and to play an even greater role in the diverse energy mix that will power the nation’s grid. 

“It’s a call to arms for lead battery manufacturers, DOE, and the national laboratories to partner on collaborative research that takes science from the laboratory to the marketplace.”

Dr. Matt Raiford, senior technical manager, CBI, an author of the roadmap said: “DOE’s renewed focus on energy storage R&D represents a unique opportunity for demonstrable gains in the U.S. battery industry. 

“A high-performing and sustainable energy storage solution is key, and this is possible through a collaboration between the US lead battery industry and the scientific excellence of the DOE.” 

The roadmap’s thirteen research work areas identified to aid DOE in meeting the challenge include: 

  1. Lead industry support 
  2. Lead Battery Science Research Program 
  3. Additive modelling 
  4. Bipolar innovation 
  5. Manufacturing 
  6. Technoeconomic analysis 
  7. Pilot manufacturing 
  8. Supply Chain issues 
  9. Logistics 
  10. Balance of plant optimisation 
  11. Energy storage system demonstration 
  12. Operational Issues 
  13. Recycling 

Energy grand challenge

The report follows the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) issue of its Energy Storage Grand Challenge (ESGC) program last December to accelerate the development, commercialisation, and use of next-generation energy storage technologies in the US.

Last September, BCI lobbied the U.S. DOE to recognise the benefits of lead batteries and invest in the technology to the same degree it does lithium-ion.

BCI sent comments reiterating that lead-based batteries could meet the three objectives of its ESGC roadmap: innovate here; make here; and deploy everywhere.

In February, president Biden issued an executive order to ensure resilient and diverse supply chains that put the spotlight on the need for the US to assert global leadership with home-grown technology to assist in the transition to an electric and low carbon future. 

The ESGC roadmap includes the goal of developing and domestically manufacturing energy storage technologies that can meet all US market demands by 2030.

Its six use cases identify energy storage applications, benefits, and functional requirements for 2030 and beyond.

The ESGC has identified cost and performance targets, which include:

  • $0.05/kWh levelised cost of storage for long-duration stationary applications, a 90% reduction from 2020 baseline costs by 2030. Achieving this levelised cost target would facilitate commercial viability for storage across a wide range of uses including: meeting load during periods of peak demand, grid preparation for fast charging of electric vehicles and applications to ensure reliability of critical services.
  • Other emerging applications for stationary storage include serving remote communities, increasing facility flexibility, increasing the resilience of interdependent networks, and facilitating the transformation of the power system.
  • $80/kWh manufactured cost for a battery pack by 2030 for a 300-mile range electric vehicle, a 44% reduction from the current cost of $143 per rated kWh. Achieving this cost target would lead to cost competitive electric vehicles and could benefit the production, performance, and safety of batteries for stationary applications. 

You can read the full ESGC report here

The U.S. lead battery industry has an annual economic impact of $26.3 billion across 38 states.

Lead batteries provide 60% of the global rechargeable energy storage market, and have significant potential for even better performance to serve increasingly demanding requirements for vehicle electrification and the integration of renewable power to the electric grid. 

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“Life threatening” violations found at lead recycler Gopher Resources US plant

Wed, 07/14/2021 - 08:26 -- Paul Crompton
Gopher Resources recycling plant in Tampa Florida, US

Lead recycling firm Gopher Resources was in breach of 14 violations of the air pollution permits and regulations at its Tampa, US, plant.

Florida regulator the Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) confirmed the breaches following its investigation of violations first reported by the Tampa Bay Times newspaper.

The violations include “life threatening” levels of SO2 and CO in employee workspaces, removal of exhaust hoods designed to capture noxious fumes, hazardous-liquid leaks, lead-laced dust blanketing the plant floor.

The violation covered poor operation, maintenance and design of the fugitive capture and ventilation systems; poor operation and maintenances of the Process and Hygiene Baghouse Shaker Systems; violations associated with SO2 emissions from the Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP). 

For a list of the Tampa Bay Times allegations click here.

The EPC launched its inquiry into Gopher Resource in April after the Times highlighted dangerous conditions inside the plant in March.

The release of the report is a first step that could result in fines or sanctions. 

In June, a former worker at the site filed a law suit against Gopher Resources, reported the Times.

Gopher responds to accusations

Gopher Resources told BEST: "Gopher has consistently stated that it will cooperate with all local, state, and federal agencies that regulate its operations in its ongoing effort to improve the overall safety and environmental performance of its plant. As the EPC report acknowledges, well before EPC began its inspection, Gopher took concrete actions to address the historical claims that the EPC report attempts to validate.  

"Although the EPC report identifies a number of conditions that it labels as "potential” air violations, the EPC report confirms that Gopher has been and remains in compliance with applicable Clean Air Act emission limitations. In fact, Gopher’s lead emissions are very low— more than 50% below the emission limits set by EPA that we are required to meet. Gopher’s positive performance with respect to emissions reflects the substantial and continuing investment Gopher has made in plant improvements.  

"Gopher has a long-standing, strong, working relationship with EPC and continues to welcome its input on changes and improvements that would make Gopher’s performance even better. EPC has conducted more than 100 inspections of the Gopher facility, and we were pleased to work with EPC on this latest one. Gopher is reviewing EPC's detailed report and will continue to work with EPC to implement any needed changes in our systems, processes and results.  

'With respect to workplace conditions, we continue to cooperate with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and we look forward to any recommendations they may make to help enhance our current efforts to protect our employees. We remain confident in our workplace safety program, which has led to a sustained and consistent decrease in average blood lead levels since 2006."

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Panasonic sells stake in long-term partner Tesla for $3.6 billion

Tue, 07/13/2021 - 08:53 -- Paul Crompton
Panasonic cells and Tesla car

Tesla’s lithium-ion battery maker Panasonic has sold its entire stake in the US electric vehicle OEM for almost $3.6 billion, reports Japanese business news outlet Nikkei.

Panasonic has said the sale will pay for its $7 billion acquisition of artificial intelligence software developer Blue Yonder, reported Nikkei.

Panasonic bought 1.4 million Tesla shares for about $30 million in 2010. Those stocks rose to $730 million at the end of March 2020, and by 24 June closed at $679.82 apiece.

Japanese firm Panasonic has been a long-term supplier of batteries to Tesla.

Last year, the pair signed a three-year pricing deal relating to the manufacture and supply of 2170 lithium-ion battery cells manufactured at its gigafactory in Nevada, US.

Panasonic said it would increase the energy density of its 2170 cells by 20% within five years and commercialise a cobalt-free version within three years.

The stock sell-off came in the same week China battery maker CATL extended a battery supply deal with Tesla to 2025.

Tesla entered into a partnership with South Korea’s LG Chem and China’s CATL in January 2020 as it looked to secure a lithium-ion battery supply for its electric cars at its Gigafactory 3 plant in Shanghai.

CATL signed a two-year battery supply agreement with Tesla, with the US firm determining the battery purchase volume, last July.

For more stories on Teslsa click here 

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Albemarle establishes battery materials innovation center to drive lithium-ion anode development

Mon, 07/12/2021 - 08:16 -- Paul Crompton

Chemicals firm Albermarle aims to fully open its new innovation centre in North Carolina, US, by the end of this month.

The Battery Materials Innovation Centre (BMIC) will develop lithium metal anode technologies that increase a lithium-ion battery’s energy density.

The firm aims to do this by using advanced lithium metal rolling to achieve lithium foils 20 microns thin or thinner, and then demonstrate lithium foils as thin as 3 to 5 microns using technologies being developed.

BMIC will support Albemarle's lithium hydroxide, lithium carbonate and advanced energy storage materials growth goals.

The plant will enable the synthesis of new materials, material properties characterisation and analysis, material scale-up capabilities, and material integration into battery cells for performance testing.

The facility includes a dry room with a multi-layer pouch-cell line that can create batteries to demonstrate aspects of battery performance and accelerate the transition of new products. 

Dr. Glen Merfeld, Albemarle Lithium’s chief technology officer, said: "The completion of the center provides us with realistic and relevant cell building capabilities to generate meaningful data for next-gen battery material design. 

"With this new resource, we will be equipped to optimise our lithium materials for a drop-in solution for customers that help them deliver high-performing cost-effective batteries for the rapidly growing electric vehicle market."

In a June 14 roundtable discussion hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy, Dr. Merfeld stressed that advancements in lithium recovery and battery performance are critical to maximising the energy yield of every gram of active lithium material. 

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Battery materials firm hopes new VP’s government contacts will boost business

Mon, 07/05/2021 - 10:02 -- Paul Crompton
6K has appointed Mary Cronin as vice-president of government affairs

Lithium-ion battery materials firm 6K has appointed Mary Cronin as vice-president of government affairs on the US firm’s executive leadership team. 

6K hopes Cronin’s contribution will add to the growing number of Defence Logistics Agency programs the company has been awarded.

Those programs include the $1 million DLA phase II program to establish a domestic capability to recover and convert critical metals from defense scrap into premium additive manufacturing powder.

Cronin has links to Capital Hill, the Defense Logistics Agency, the Department of Energy, the Department of Defense and strategic defense primes.

6K CEO Aaron Bent said: “Issues like battery manufacturing in the US, of which there is near zero capability currently, and securing critical elements like titanium domestically, pose a national threat to the country. 

“Our production platform can be a key driving force in solving these issues. Having Mary leading these initiatives with the highest levels of government will give us a strong voice in DC and uncover more strategic program opportunities.”

Cronin said she was attracted to the company because of its potential to impact domestic [US] battery production and its commitment to a new Battery Center of Excellence.

In April, 6K announced plans for the $25 million, 33,000 square-foot, Center of Excellence facility in Massachusetts to develop sustainable battery materials for energy storage devices, with a focus on electric vehicles, grid storage, and consumer goods.

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Thermal storage technology firm Sunamp names Hank Torbert as chairman

Thu, 06/17/2021 - 12:34 -- Paul Crompton

Thermal storage technology company Sunamp has appointed US business leader Hank Torbert as its new chairman. 

Torbert was chosen for his experience which includes new technologies, such as artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology, transmission technologies and synthetic biology as the Scottish company focuses on international expansion.

Former JP Morgan Chase investment banker Torbert is the president of US-based military packaging firm Alta Max, and the CEO of technology event 'The Frontier Conference'. 

Sunamp raised £4.5 million in a Series A fundraising round last August, led by Chilean venture capital firm Aurus Capital.

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First New York lithium-ion cells made as consortium eyes 45GWh global capacity

Wed, 06/16/2021 - 12:14 -- Paul Crompton

A consortium has made its first lithium-ion cells as it moves toward plans for a commercially viable 15GWh gigafactory in New York, US.

Imperium3 New York (iM3NY) has produced its first full sized prismatic cells for limited testing and customer sampling in Q3 of this year.

The first cells were produced using manual settings to refine the product design for future automated production. 

Imperium3 New York consortium consists of Magnis Energy, C4V LLC New York and Boston Energy and Innovation.

The consortium said the cells were the first stage of demonstration of its ability to synchronise material science, engineering and process knowledge to produce a commercially viable lithium-ion cell. 

A Magnis statement read: “While the volumes would increase with fully optimised and automated lines, the current phase works towards production grade design and de-risks design unknowns involved in the transition from pilot production to full scale production.”

The manufacturing plant will be located in the Huron Campus of Endicott, New York State, and will be the first of three global locations that Imperium3 will commence volume operations from. 

Plans also include a 15GWh lithium-ion battery manufacturing facility in Townsville, Australia. 

In all, the consortium aims to build three 15GWh battery manufacturing plants servicing global markets such as Australasia, North America and the Middle East.

Australia’s abundance of raw battery materials has led another firm to launch plans for a 1.3GWh factory.

Energy Renaissance secured AUS$246,625 ($175,000) co-funded grant last year to push forward plans for its Renaissance One plant, which will manufacture batteries for Australia and export to Southeast Asia.

 
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Scientists develop solid-state lithium battery with 10,000 cycle life

Wed, 06/09/2021 - 11:26 -- Paul Crompton
Scientists develop solid-state lithium battery with 10,000 cycle life

A team from Harvard University in the US has designed a lithium-metal solid-state battery that can be cycled at least 10,000 times.

The researchers paired a multilayer battery that sandwiches materials of varying stabilities between the anode and cathode with a commercial, high energy density cathode material.

This multilayer, multi-material battery prevents the penetration of lithium dendrites by controlling and containing them, say the team.

The team from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) published the findings in the journal Nature.

The first electrolyte (chemical name Li5.5PS4.5Cl1.5or LPSCI) was more stable with lithium, but prone to dendrite penetration; the second electrolyte, (Li10Ge1P2S12or LGPS), was less stable with lithium, but the researchers found it was immune to dendrites. 

In the second design, dendrites were allowed to grow through the graphite and first electrolyte, but were stopped when they reached the second. 

The cycling performance of the lithium metal anode paired with a LiNi0.8Mn0.1Co0.1 O2 cathode was found to be stable, with an 82% capacity retention after 10,000 cycles at a 20C rate (8.6 milliamps per centimetre squared) and 81.3% capacity retention after 2,000 cycles at a 1.5C rate (0.64 milliamps per centimetre squared). 

The team’s battery recorded a specific power of 110.6kW/kg and specific energy up to 631.1Wh/kg watt at the micrometre-sized cathode material level.

Luhan Ye, co-author of the paper and graduate student at SEAS, said: “Our strategy of incorporating instability in order to stabilise the battery feels counterintuitive but just like an anchor can guide and control a screw going into a wall, so too can our multilayer design guide and control the growth of dendrites.” 

The difference was the researchers’ anchor quickly becomes too tight for the dendrite to drill through, so the dendrite growth is stopped.

The battery is also self-healing; its chemistry allows it to backfill holes created by the dendrites. 

Xin Li, associate professor of Materials Science at SEAS, said: “This proof-of-concept design shows that lithium-metal solid-state batteries could be competitive with commercial lithium-ion batteries.

“And the flexibility and versatility of our multilayer design makes it potentially compatible with mass production procedures in the battery industry. Scaling it up to the commercial battery wont’ be easy and there are still some practical challenges, but we believe they will be overcome.”

 (Image courtesy of Second Bay Studios/Harvard SEAS)

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