Battery material for the sodium-ion revolution

Litona founder Sebastian Büchele shows a bottle of the energy storage material Preußisch Weiß for sodium-ion batteries. (Photo: Markus Breig, KIT)

Litona founder Sebastian Büchele shows a bottle of the energy storage material Preußisch Weiß for sodium-ion batteries. (Photo: Markus Breig, KIT)

Litona, a spin-off from KIT, produces the cathode material Prussian White for next-generation batteries

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Powerful, safe and environmentally friendly – sodium-ion batteries have many advantages over conventional batteries. Since they do not contain critical raw materials such as lithium or cobalt, they could also make applications such as stationary energy storage and electromobility much cheaper. However, there is currently a lack of the necessary energy storage materials for production. The start-up Litona, founded at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), wants to produce them on an industrial scale. From April 22nd to 26th, 2024, Litona will be presenting itself at the KIT stand at “Energy Solutions” (Hall 13, Stand C76) at the Hannover Messe. 

Prussian White, a “chemical relative” of the well-known dye Prussian Blue, is essentially based on sodium, iron and manganese. “As an energy storage material, it can be used on the cathode, i.e. the positive pole of a sodium-ion battery,” says Sebastian Büchele from the Institute for Applied Materials at KIT and founder of Litona. “Such batteries are cheap and all the raw materials they contain are widely available. I am convinced that we will soon be able to use them on a mass scale in electric vehicles and grid storage.” The question, however, is who produces them. The European industry is facing a major problem here. “It is currently difficult even for research institutions to obtain Prussian White in sufficient quantities. Hardly any company in Europe produces it,” reports the scientist. “Research and transfer of future-oriented sodium-ion technology will be extremely slowed down.”

Prussian White for mass production

Since Büchele also wanted to research sodium ion technology, he decided to synthesize Prussian white himself. This work at KIT not only resulted in a high-quality cathode material, but also an innovative process for its production. With the aim of serving a larger market, he founded the start-up Litona together with the chemist Tom Bötticher. “Competitors had problems scaling the production of Prussian White analogues,” says Büchele. “We believe we have solved this. We have also developed methods to further enhance our material.”

Opportunity for European industry

To validate the scaling steps and optimize the material for use in next-generation batteries, Litona used KIT's infrastructure. In the meantime, the two founders are already working on setting up their own state-of-the-art production facility. “We consciously chose Germany as a location,” emphasizes co-founder Bötticher. “We believe in the potential of European battery production. When it comes to lithium-ion batteries, Asia has been ahead in recent years. Sodium-ion technology is now a huge opportunity for a new beginning in Europe. We don’t just want to watch.”

Litona at the Hannover Messe 2024

The start-up Litona will be presenting itself at this year's Hannover Messe from April 22nd to 26th at the KIT stand at “Energy Solutions” (Hall 13, Stand C76).

About Litona

Litona was founded in August 2023 with the aim of supplying the European industry with sodium-ion energy storage materials. However, the young company does not want to rule out developing its own sodium-ion batteries in the future. The founders are currently in discussions with well-known investors from the deep tech scene. 

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