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EELICON Report Summary

Project ID: 604204
Funded under: FP7-NMP
Country: Germany

Periodic Report Summary 2 - EELICON (Enhanced Energy Efficiency and Comfort by Smart Light Transmittance Control)

Project Context and Objectives:
EELICON is concerned with an innovative switchable light transmittance technology, the core of which are mechanically flexible and lightweight electrochromic (EC) film devices. These are based
on a novel combination of EC and electrolyte materials creating a unique property profile far beyond the current state-of-the art, opening the possibility to retrofit existing windows with an electrically
dimmable plastic film. According to life cycle assessment studies, considerable energy savings may result when such films are included in appliance doors, automotive sunroofs, and architectural
glazing, and the comfort is significantly enhanced. Although the development has been driven to the pilot-line stage, the decisive step from research to innovation has not yet been accomplished for a number of technical and economic reasons. To overcome this gap, EELICON is tackling existing drawbacks by removing equipment limitations and automating processes, thereby establishing a high-throughput prototype production for a cost-effective EC film technology in Europe (cost target 200 €/m2). The project comprises twelve inter-linked work packages (WP), eleven of which were relevant in the second period.

The project spans pilot-line, validation, and prototyping phases (incl. business planning). The second reporting period covered the validation phase (up-scaling and system integration) and part of the prototype phase (technology transfer & prototype production). The project objectives for the period are compiled in the following:

EELICON Project objectives/tasks in the 2nd period:

• Project co-ordination • Steering Group • Periodic reporting •

• WP leadership • General Assembly and technical meetings • Overall scientific coordination •

• Preliminary business case & costing considerations •

• Laboratory characterisation & quality control • Application & Environmental Testing •

• Bus bar printing • 2nd generation devices •

• Moisture and oxygen protection • Evaluation of (Active) light protection concepts • Optical contrast & response time optimisation •

• Design integration in the application & electronic control units • - Production and testing engineering pre-prototypes •

• Technology transfer • Prototype production •

• Life-cycle assessment • Eco-toxicological assessment & environmentally benign manufacturing •

• Website • Exploitation strategy • Needs assessment & Business Planning • Using & Disseminating the Foreground Knowledge (PUDF) •

• Expert interviews • SME interviews •

Project Results:
EELICON is marked by a lively exchange of information, making use of complementary expertise and shared infrastructure between the consortium partners. Apart from three review meetings in the period, there were a considerable number of technical meetings, short stays, and trials of different scope, addressing dedicated objectives such as device production, process automation, LCA, and business plan development (BPD). The group continued to put particularly strong efforts in organising concerted coating trials, device assembly campaigns, and multilateral workshops to ensure effective technology transfer (WP 2).

After having established a working basis for the implementation of the subsequent work plan and comprehensively analysing the internal (→ within) and external (→ outside consortium) state-of-the-art in ‘Smart Windows’ technology in WP 3, activities focused on business case considerations and general benchmarking. A preliminary business case was created based on a financial business plan for an EC film production company. The company´s boundary conditions were defined by particular application cases lead by three end-user partners from the consortium. The report is currently updated based on new boundary conditions, process details relevant to costs, and financial assumptions.

The goal of WP 5 is to assess the performance of EC films and devices by means of laboratory & application testing, long-term cycling, and environmental testing. Application testing results were of utmost importance a) to confirm the performance found in laboratory testing and under conditions that are more realistic and b) to identify any shortcomings. 2nd generation devices have been analysed upon ageing in a couple of different environments. In Period 2, this study was further extended to glue-sealed samples and devices with continuously applied Al bus bars. Under moderate conditions, standard film devices successfully survived a 10k cycling test with only negligible variation in the colour coordinates, constant contrast, and no substantial changes in electrochromic performance, which is rated a very good, now confirmed result. Cycle tests on laminated glass panes performed under ambient conditions additionally confirmed the absence of increased delamination or discoloration at 10k and 20k cycle check-ups. Under severe conditions, however, a more effective encapsulation is required. For glue-sealing, glues of suitable flexibility and adhesion properties were identified. The industrial partners have focused on application testing such as cycle life tests, tempera-ture variation tests, and optical measurements, partly performed in relevant environments (component and/or breadboard validation). A large number of samples approx. 25 x 40 cm2 in size were produced for this purpose, thereby making strong efforts to improve homogeneity and defect density (both being issues identified in the 1st period). From preliminary weathering results, the most severe damage occurred when the device was switched and exposed to UV at the same time, while a good durability can be stated for simple temperature variation tests.

WP 6 represents the transition from 1st generation device production (WP 4) towards semi-automated prototype production (WP 9), thereby establishing process automation steps where necessary and useful. Being close to its end in Period 2, WP 6 work strongly focused on automating bus bar deposition and rinsing processes, supported by computer-aided design (CAD) and virtual reality models. Demonstrators were produced, such as hundreds of running metres of base film endowed with linear and rectangular bus bar frames, deposited continuously by roll-to-roll (R2R) processes. Activities related to bus bar printing were commenced, which offers cost saving potential and the possibility to create devices with free-form geometries interesting for applications such as motorsport visors or complex-shaped windows. Printed material was coated and assembled to fully functional full cells with short response time and high contrast. The consortium currently works on remaining shortcomings such as the increased tendency to short circuits and the susceptibility of Ag-based bus bars to undergo oxidation.

The electrode productions processes as such have been established during Period 1. In Period 2, efficiency issues were tackled, with a focus on rinsing/de-doping steps and homogeneity improvements for the working and counter electrodes. The status of the electrode production process development is characterised by the successful accomplishment of the following tasks: Elimination of coating defects and scratches to a large part, validation of novel machine components and sub-processes, scaling-up to films with 500 mm width, thereby reducing thickness gradients.

WP 7 dealt with the effect of moisture and oxygen on the stability of pristine devices, the evaluation of different sealing solutions to improve the latter, and concepts for light protection, i.e., the use of external layers/glass panes (passive) and additives (active) to improve light stability and help fulfilling the corresponding requirements. The results obtained so far show that EELICON devices have remarkable stability even without employing particular care in keeping moisture/oxygen and/or UV light under control. However, further improvements, particularly regarding high UV irradiance conditions under bias, will probably become necessary.

Based on simplified electrical models, the conducting properties of the transparent conducting film (TCF) used as substrate is supposed to be the main influencing factor for response time of an EC device, rather than the kinetics of the electrochemical processes. Therefore, response time optimisation has been performed by evaluating different TCF concepts, rather than by adapting the chemistry of the electrochromic system. Preliminary results indicate that metal grid-based electrodes do not work well with the EELICON technology due to charge distribution and coupling issues.

In WP 8, concepts were considered for the mechanical integration of EELICON devices in three application environments: automotive – appliances – architectural glazing. Moreover, a functional strategy was developed for the Electronic Control Unit (ECU). The design of the ECU embedded in the electronic system of the application environment is of utmost importance, as it will strongly impact overall performance. An ECU pre-fabricated in Period 1 was further refined and validated. The final configuration is based on: 1) microprocessor; 2) feedback sensor; 3) EC device actuator; 4) power source; 5) communications. Partners are particularly investigating the possibility of a retrofit low-cost solution for vehicles. The strategy of installation is based on the development of a specific plastic frame hosting the ECU and the EC device film, forming an integrated stand-alone system, including a photovoltaic cell and small battery to feed the electronic circuitry, the EC device, and Bluetooth wireless communication.

WP 9 kicked off with the aim to transfer IPR-protected knowledge behind the EELICON technology and up-scaling results into prototype production and accomplish a full process loop closure (“technology transfer”). All partners involved have been working on overcoming small output numbers in batch processing by performing as many as possible steps in a continuous manner. Considerable progress was hence made towards the continuous processing of crucial device components, although the final step to an inertly processed, back-end assembled device is yet pending. Once achieved, the semi-finished devices will be integrated into full prototypes for end user evaluation (third period). In order to enable a full R2R manufacturing process today, and a future scaling in web speed and substrate width, the device structure was split into components that are processed separately and finally laminated and encapsulated. This strategic approach allows optimising each step individually for high yield to be in line with market cost targets. The fragmentation of the total production flow into a total of four production lines is supported by the Click&Coat design of the individual coating equipment.

In WP 10, good progress was made towards the main objective to determine the primary energy demand (amongst other impact categories factors) of manufacturing EC windows based on the EELICON technology. The results are looked upon from various angles, i.e., interpreted for different application scenarios and framework conditions. Overall it can be stated that all systems under consideration perform better and offer more saving potential than the benchmark (traditional blinds). The energy requirements in the use phase clearly mirror the geographical location. For materials or processes found to have a high impact on energy consumption and ecological footprint in the LCA (e.g., high VOC consumption, energy-demanding purification processes or treatments, etc.), substantial improvements have been identified that show a measurable effect on the LCA results in the produc-tion phase.

WP 11 comprises all activities regarding the dissemination and exploitation of project results. In the second period, focus was laid on Business Planning development (BPD). Besides, there were a number of conferences, fairs, and similar events where EELICON was represented. The project website has been revised and made mobile-friendly. The public domain project presentation was updated. The talks with external interested parties and industrial audiences were intensified. In Exploitation Strategy and BPD seminars, the project and the research work done or to be done in the future was broken down into key exploitable results with commercial and/or societal significance. Each result was also analysed in terms of risks connected to exploitation using a well-established Business Model Canvas methodology. A needs assessment has so far been carried out for the building sector only, mapping value chains from materials suppliers to end users. The PUDF was updated (1 new patent application filed, 1 new application considered, 2 new scientific publications, 1 invited conference talk, other events & papers).

WP 12 serves the identification of SME (and other) enterprises that could profit from the EELICON solution, for instance future producers of the technology, suppliers to it or customers of it. Towards this objective, considerable progress was made in establishing contacts and performing interviews with multiple key players and experts. In total, 19 interviews with both leading experts from relevant industry sectors and application areas as well as key players of the relevant industry sectors were carried out. The activities put the consortium in a position to gain a more solid (but still preliminary) view on EELICON’s position in the value chain, the value proposition, missing expertise, and potential future development partners.

Potential Impact:
It is expected that the EELICON technology can be developed to address the main market needs and comply with price constraints and customer requirement specifications. Relevant IP is available for exploitation. The project fully complies with the objectives of NMP Activity 4.4 – Integration and call NMP.2013.4.0-3 - From research to innovation: Previously obtained research results are used by industry, the European paradox is relieved, and the valley of death is overcome by following three pillars of development. The project is characterised by strong industrial/SME participation. Eight out of 13 partners are industrials, six of which being SMEs with leading roles, which is an excellent pre-requisite to achieve the set goals. The innovation will create a new business on flexible light EC films for energy efficiency in Europe. The new production is explicitly not meant to replace existing ones, but to generally increase the level of employment in EC technology business and complement the existing portfolio by a low-cost flexible product. On the long term, the consortium aims at business agreements to strengthen the economic development.

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