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Innovative Manufacturing Routes for Next Generation Batteries in Europe

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - IMAGE (Innovative Manufacturing Routes for Next Generation Batteries in Europe)

Periodo di rendicontazione: 2020-11-01 al 2021-10-31

IMAGE, Innovative Manufacturing Routes for Next Generation Batteries in Europe, was a H2020 project running from 2017-2021 that addressed the development of lithium cells for automotive and stationary applications. The project aimed to develop a new type of Li-based rechargeable cell consisting of lithium metal, a gel-polymer-electrolyte, and NMC622 as cathode material.

Although a lot of the technologies and functional materials used in today´s lithium-ion cells have been developed at European universities and European companies, where cell production itself is dominated only by a few large companies originating in Asia. Especially in the critical field of cell manufacturing know-how, the competence has been lost over the last years.
The lack of cell production in Europe is considered problematic, especially with regard to the topic of electromobility which has taken an important turn in the automotive industry and daily life, strongly promoted by politics and driven by the environment. To regain competitiveness, IMAGE aimed to contribute to the development of next-generation of European rechargeable lithium cells, and to production know-how which is proving to be decisive.
The work within IMAGE project followed the plan detailly outlined in the project proposal (DoA). To compare the results of the cells to be developed in the project with state of the art requirements, automotive and and stationary battery systems were analysed and the specifications were collected and recalculated to cell level. From these data the cell requirements and a test plan were derived.

The material manufacturers started developing and production of the new materials, lithium anode foils, gel-polymer-electrolyte and NMC cathode. Optimisations were done and several material samples were delivered to the partners for testing and further in depth characterisation. Coin cells and small, monolayer type research pouch cells were used for the first tests. The material production was then upscaled for the multilayer pouch cells. These bigger but still research size (2 Ah) cells were built and characterised in the last project phase. A special focus was laid on studying material handling and elaboration of production know-how.

Another important topic of IMAGE was the investigation of the integration of the new cells into battery modules and battery packs. Due to changed material properties there are some new challenges; the operating temperature as well the pressure applied on the cells require some adaptions of state of the art housing concepts and the higher breathing/swelling behaviour of the cells have to be considered during module assembly. Packaging concepts for automotive and stationary applications were elaborated.

To further enhance the production know-how a literature review of all known solid-state materials was done, focussing on material properties and possible and reliable ways to synthesis these materials. Also an investigation of production technologies of various other industries, (e.g. ceramic, plastic, …) to be also applied for producing lithium cells or lithium cell materials was done. Different interesting solid state electrolyte materials were synthesised and in depth characterised for their electrochemical properties.

In the framework of IMAGE project 24 publications were published and one patent application could be filed. Several conferences were visited, one workshop and one webinar have been done.
The cell technology investigated in the course of IMAGE project is unconventional in respect of combining a new, innovative gel-polymer electrolyte and a lithium metal anode. In combination with the aqueous processed high-Nickel NMC cathode the cell can be classified to be TRL 5-6. Systems of this maturity level are interesting in terms of being beyond the state of the art, while having an acceptable time to market. Lower material costs and a simplified production are the main advantages, also the manufacturing of anode tapes would become obsolete. Another advantage of the new cell-type is the increased energy density. The elaboration of production know is thought to be a main benefit in understanding the new materials, and thus increasing the know-how of European companies.
The new cell-type from the materials applied is more environment-friendly as the use of organic solvents during cell production is reduced, and fewer critical materials are needed.
Ambition of IMAGE project