Research for safe solid-state batteries

In the ALANO project, industry and science are developing innovative concepts for batteries with lithium metal anodes - KIT researchers are investigating electrochemical aspects

Photo by GoranH / 3085 images from Pixabay

Photo by GoranH / 3085 images from Pixabay

Solid-state batteries can advance electromobility. In the new application-oriented ALANO project, partners from industry and research, coordinated by BMW AG, are working on the next generation of lithium batteries: lithium metal as anode material and a solid electrolyte enable the energy density to be increased at cell level with a high level of safety, and thus the range of electric cars to extend. The Helmholtz Institute Ulm (HIU), which was founded by the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and the University of Ulm, is involved in the project funded by the Federal Ministry of Research. 

Light and powerful, inexpensive and safe - batteries for electric cars have to combine various requirements. Battery researchers and automobile manufacturers have therefore been relying more and more on solid-state batteries for some time. With this design, both electrodes and the electrolyte consist of solid materials. The solid electrolyte in particular promises safety advantages: it is flame retardant and cannot leak. The new joint project ALANO (Alternative Anode Concepts for Safe Solid-State Batteries) deals with next-generation lithium batteries and focuses on the lithium metal anode as a central component. ALANO aims to increase the energy density of a solid-state battery with a high level of safety.

A solid electrolyte helps optimize the reactivity, safety and performance of solid state batteries. (Photo: Xilai Xue, KIT) 

Higher energy density - longer range

"Lithium metal as an anode material has the potential to significantly increase the energy density at cell level and thus significantly extend the range of electric cars," explains Professor Stefano Passerini, director of the Helmholtz Institute Ulm (HIU) involved in ALANO and head of the research group for battery electrochemistry at the HIU. In the ALANO project, partners from research and industry are evaluating various innovative lithium metal-based anode concepts for solid-state batteries in order to optimize the reactivity, safety and performance of the anode and to integrate them into a robust cell unit with a high energy density. The combination with a solid electrolyte is decisive. In contrast to conventional liquid electrolytes, which react strongly with lithium metal, Solid electrolytes are less reactive and thus open up the possibility of developing kinetically stable interfaces. This in turn promises further advantages: "Firstly, safety is significantly improved since the cells do not contain any liquid and easily flammable components," explains Dr. Dominic Bresser, head of the Electrochemical Energy Storage Materials research group at the HIU. "Second, the robustness of the cells increases, which makes handling, cooling and system integration easier." This enables costs to be reduced at the cell, module and system level. At the same time, the service life of the cells increases, which contributes to sustainability. since the cells do not contain any liquid and easily flammable components, ”explains Dr. Dominic Bresser, head of the Electrochemical Energy Storage Materials research group at the HIU. "Second, the robustness of the cells increases, which makes handling, cooling and system integration easier." This enables costs to be reduced at the cell, module and system level. At the same time, the service life of the cells increases, which contributes to sustainability. since the cells do not contain any liquid and easily flammable components, ”explains Dr. Dominic Bresser, head of the Electrochemical Energy Storage Materials research group at the HIU. "Second, the robustness of the cells increases, which makes handling, cooling and system integration easier." This enables costs to be reduced at the cell, module and system level. At the same time, the service life of the cells increases, which contributes to sustainability.

Research and development along the entire value chain

The ALANO project covers the entire value chain of solid-state batteries with lithium metal as anode material: from the selection of the materials to the manufacture of the components, the processing into cells, the scaling of the batteries for use in vehicles and other applications to recycling. The integration into the circular economy is also taken into account. In the ALANO project, partners from industry and research work together across industries and disciplines.

BMW AG is the coordinator of the consortium. Other industrial partners include Applied Materials GmbH, ARLANXEO GmbH, DAIKIN Chemical Europe GmbH, RENA Technologies GmbH and VARTA Microbattery GmbH. In addition to the HIU, research partners include the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Applied Materials Research IFAM, the Fraunhofer Institute for Surface Engineering and Thin Films IST, the Research Center Jülich (FZJ), the Battery Research Center Münster Electrochemical Energy Technology (MEET) at the University of Münster , the Center for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research Baden-Württemberg (ZSW) and the University of Giessen. BASF SE is involved as an associated partner. ALANO starts in September 2021; the project is scheduled to run for three years.

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