Material Technology

IFE's battery researchers have cracked a code that can revolutionize battery range and lifespan

Battery researchers at the Institute for Energy Technology (IFE) have solved a challenge which enables far better batteries.
IFE's battery researchers have cracked a code that can revolutionize battery range and lifespan
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Holt, Arve

Research Director

 

– One can say we have found the X factor everybody has been looking for. This technology has enormous potential. It is based on a material which is something scientists around the world have been trying to make for a long time, says Research Director Arve Holt.

The recent research results showed that with the new IFE-developed technology, the charge capacity of the anode (negative electrode) can increase by three to five times compared to traditional lithium-ion battery anode material; graphite. These are the batteries used in electric cars, cell phones, tablets, laptops and majority of the electronic devices we surround ourselves in every day’s life. Along with the developments of the other battery components, it may enable mobile phones that do not need to be charged for several days or electric cars with driving range up to 1000 km.

IFE is now ready to deliver the outcome of this research to the market and is currently working on obtaining patents for the technology. In parallel, the Institute will work with the leading Norwegian and international companies to ensure the industrial applicability of the technology and test new batteries in the commercial settings.

"We have tested our materials on the lab-scale and seen good results. Now we have received support from the Norwegian Research Council within the FORNY2020 program to further explore our technology together with international industry partners to ensure that everything works in the industrial processing. The project, which we have called SiliconX, will focus on delivering the new material to the market. It is very exciting to work towards such ambitious goals together with Kjeller Innovation”, says Marte O. Skare, one of the researchers involved in the project.

The Silicon Challenge

Around 20 researchers work on silicon-based anode materials at IFE's Materials Technology Sector. The problem they have now resolved has been a major challenge for battery researchers around the globe.

The main goal for the team was to ensure that silicon can replace graphite and provide a stable performance (more details below) of the anode in lithium-ion batteries (LIB) while delivering better energy storage capacity. Theoretically, silicon can deliver 10 times the capacity of graphite; however, severe degradation of silicon in batteries has been the major obstacle for adopting such promising technology. Successful implementation of silicon (or similar materials) in these batteries will provide far better energy storage capacity than used today, thus improving the quality of the modern electronics.

The breakthrough of IFE’s research team is the successful preparation and implementation of a silicon-based material which can function as an excellent replacement for currently utilized graphite. This is a result of several years of targeted research and experimental efforts in the field of silicon-based nanomaterials performed in IFE's laboratories at Kjeller.

"Within the new nanoparticles, there is a finely divided mixture of silicon and another material that we call - the matrix. This matrix helps silicon to withstand the big volume change as it goes through charging and discharging processes", says Asbjørn Ulvestad, Researcher and leader of IFE's research efforts in the SiliconX project, and is one of the inventors behind the unique technology.

Today, with help of Kjeller Innovation, the team will explore relevant business models for the technology, while further development of the material at Kjeller.

More on the challenge

Theoretically, silicon has a high potential as anode material, having 10 times capacity of graphite, which is the currently adopted commercial anode material. However, expansion by 400% during charging, and subsequent contraction during discharge results in material degradation and represents the biggest issue for successful implementation of the technology. Such processes damage silicon particles, and after multiple cycles the particles break, leading to capacity fade and eventually battery failure. The figure below illustrates the short lifetime of the battery with a purely silicon-based anode battery (top curve). IFE now believes to be on their way to successfully implementing silicon as a stable anode material.

With the newly developed material, increased stability is achieved in exchange for some of the silicon capacity. Since the capacity is very high to begin with, the material still delivers a performance 3-5 times higher than graphite used in today's batteries.

Graf tester SiliconX

Figure above: The top, black curve shows the evolution of pure silicon anode capacity during cycling, which has high capacity at the beginning, but rapidly decreases. Light blue curve in the middle shows test results from battery fabricated with the anode material developed by IFE. The bottom curve in grey shows the capacity of commercially available anode materials.

 

Facts

  • SiliconX is a verification project, and has been supported by the Research Council of Norway through the FORNY2020 program.
  • The IFE-developed technology makes it possible to use silicon as anode material.
  • The results show that the charging capacity of the anode could be increased three to five times compared to the conventional alternatives.
  • The project has a budget of 5 million NOK with the duration of 2 years which will be distributed between IFE and Kjeller Innovation, which assists in commercialization.
  • In parallel with SiliconX, researchers from IFE will work on another research project focused on the research side of the same anode material, which is supported by the Research Council of Norway through the EnergiX program with the budget of NOK 11 million.
  • More information in this 1-pager (pdf).

 

Facts about Kjeller Innovation:

  • Kjeller Innovation is one of Norway's leading innovation companies. Within various 15 R&D activities and together with business partners, Kjeller Innovation enables commercialization of research results and ideas. The goal of Kjeller Innovation is to assist companies that can contribute to the society needs.
  • Kjeller Innovation specializing in the areas of energy, environment, social security and bioeconomics.
  • Kjeller Innovation has its headquarters in the research park at Kjeller, as well as offices in Ås and Oslo.
  • Read more on the website http://www.kjellerinnovasjon.no/

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2018-08-06