Challenges of Getting Manufacturers Interested in Advanced Materials for Batteries

After more than a decade of experience in lithium-ion battery research, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory know well the challenges of getting manufacturers interested in advanced materials for their batteries.

Argonne National Laboratory researcher Gang Cheng conducts an experiment to detect moisture in battery electrolytes at its existing battery testing labs. Moisture is detrimental to the performance and longevity of battery cells. Photo by Wes Agresta.

The laboratory will soon be able to greatly accelerate this process thanks to money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

Argonne was recently awarded $8.8 million in ARRA funding to construct three battery research and development facilities: a Battery Prototype Cell Fabrication Facility, a Materials Production Scale-Up Facility and a Post-Test Analysis Facility.

The laboratory's research will focus on battery materials and batteries for hybrid electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and all other electric vehicles.

"These facilities will create a direct pipeline between materials researchers and battery developers," said Dennis Dees, an electrochemical engineer at Argonne who will help oversee the Prototype Cell Fabrication Facility. "This will greatly reduce the time to get battery improvements into production."

Dees said the laboratory will spend $1 million on equipment designed to improve the quality and evaluate the performance of newly fabricated cells.

Gregory Krumdick, principal systems engineer at Argonne, will lead the Materials Production Scale-Up Facility.

He said the purpose of the facility is to develop manufacturing processes for producing advanced battery materials in sufficient quantity for industrial-scale testing.

“Processes developed in the lab are not always suitable for large-scale production,” Krumdick said. “This facility will provide the means to scale up these processes, as well as to actually produce larger quantities of the materials for evaluation.”

His arm of the project will receive $5.8 million of the ARRA award.

“Argonne has developed a great number of new and innovative battery materials but most never make it to industrial production,” he said. "This facility will be the link to connect the bench-scale research with the battery manufacturing industry.”

Ira Bloom, a chemist at Argonne, will run the Post-Test Analysis Facility, which is slated to receive $2 million in ARRA funding.

“Post-test analysis is the natural extension of the battery testing that Argonne has been doing for many years," he said. "As a battery ages during use or testing, performance degrades and changes occur in the battery materials. Post-test analysis lets us see what physical changes occurred."

Bloom said his facility, which will be up and running in the next two years, will help scientists and engineers understand exactly what changed, so they can improve the battery’s performance and life.

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