Silicon for lithium-ion batteries moves to commercial production


From pv magazine Global

Battery materials startup Group 14 Technologies brought its first commercial-scale factory online in the northwest United States. The factory can produce up to 120 tons per year of the company’s lithium silicon-carbon material SCC55, designed as a replacement for graphite in lithium-ion batteries.

Since it has around 10 times the energy density of graphite, silicon has attracted plenty of attention from researchers as a potential anode material for lithium-ion batteries. Challenges with the material’s tendency to expand when used in battery, however, have largely held back commercial applications until now.

Group 14 said that by focusing on large-scale solutions from the start it has been able to design a material that can both be produced at large-scale and serve as a “drop in” solution for battery manufacturers already working with graphite.

“We leveraged our team’s deep commercial manufacturing experience to prioritize process development and designing for cost from the beginning,” said CTO Rick Costantino. “The process to manufacture SCC55 was designed from the start to be scaled quickly and efficiently, an approach that has kept us on track to bring our technology online to help power consumer electronics, electric vehicles and more.”

The material consists of a carbon “scaffold,” inside which is a 3-5 nanometer particle of amorphous silicon. Void space inside the scaffold gives the silicon some room to expand, while the carbon surface creates a stable interface with the electrolyte.

Batteries using only SCC55 as the anode have shown stability over more than 500 cycles. It can also be combined with graphite in various ratios for stability over 1,000-2,000 cycles, with customers able to find the optimal balance.

“We have a lot of customers looking at the blending approach, and others also working only with our material to get a 50% plus boost to their battery capacity,” Group 14 CEO Rick Luebbe told pv magazine.

Group 14 did not share information on the cost of its material, although it said it will be competitive with graphite when the improved performance is taken into account.

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