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How an ultrathin membrane from Evonik ensures that lithium-ion storage devices deliver outstanding performance
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A glimpse of the production process: Under climatically controlled conditions, Li-Tec specialists produce the energy storage systems of the future. Product quality is continually monitored. Photo: Li-Tec Battery GmbH
If you're looking for innovative energy sources in Germany, you'll find them in an unlikely place. Europe‘s largest battery cell factory is under construction in the small town of Kamenz, near Dresden, in the German state of Saxony. This is where Evonik Industries is developing innovative high-performance lithium-ion based batteries. They are at the core of the electric cars of the future—and could also evolutionize power generation from renewable energy sources.
The greatest global challenge that the automotive industry faces today is providing environmentally compatible individual mobility over the long term. Along with hybrid-drive and natural gas-run vehicles, the "zero-mission", or electric car, is regarded as the transport medium of the future. The German Federal government has laid the foundations for this endeavor with the funding of the joint project ProLIEMo (short for Production Research for Lithium Ion Batteries for ElectroMobility). The strategic goal of this research project is to develop, establish, and strengthen innovative production technologies for lithium-ion batteries in Germany. This top-flight research should be able to support globally competitive, automated mass production of large-scale lithium ion batteries in Germany from 2011 onward. The market potential of this futureoriented technology is immense. According to expert estimates, global market volume for high-performance lithium-ion batteries will exceed €10 billion within a decade, and that for battery materials €4 billion.
Evonik Litarion GmbH supplies the core of the innovative energy storage unit: the electrode material and the separator. As early as 2008, moreover, Evonik Industries AG and Daimler AG pooled research, development, and production in lithium-ion battery technology: Li-Tec Battery GmbH, a joint venture between Evonik (50,1%) and Daimler (49,9%), manufactures battery cells from Evonik's electrodes and separator materials. The Deutsche Accumotive GmbH will take the electrodes and Evonik's separators and manufacture car batteries from them beginning in 2011. Along with the anode and cathode materials, the SEPARION® ceramic membrane separator forms the innovative heart of the battery. The key components are not manufactured in Kamenz but a few hundred kilometers to the west in Marl, North Rhine-Westphalia. The ceramic separator has its origins here, at Evonik's R&D unit Creavis Technologies & Innovation. The ceramic-coated membrane ensures excellent battery performance and protects the cells from overheating. In contrast to the plastic separators previously used, SEPARION® can withstand temperatures of nearly 700 degrees Celsius. In protecting against overheating, the separator technology offers an additional advantage by contributing to the durability of the batteries. This storage technology is entirely patent protected, and in the year 2009 its constituents were combined under the brand name CERIO®.
The basic requirement for the long-term market success of electromobility is to keep developing the lithium-ion battery toward a longer service life, higher performance, improved safety, and, above all, lower costs. Mass production of lithium-ion batteries is a prerequisite for the development of a number of new and future- oriented products in Germany: In addition to its use in the electric car, Evonik's lithium-ion technology is well suited to large stationary applications, too, and offers extraordinary potential in this area.
XXL lithium-ion batteries: blueprint of the lithium-ion storage system with which Evonik is testing the future. The technology stores solar energy and releases it when there is no sunlight.
Evonik's researchers are currently working on a lithiumceramic battery of unprecedented size. This should make it possible in the future to store solar and wind power even on a large scale. The drawback so far has been that wind and solar power are not always available in constant quantities, and new storage technologies are essential if overproduction and bottlenecks are to be avoided. For this purpose, Evonik and its partners are developing the world's largest lithium ceramic battery. The ambitious large-format power storage project is named LESSY (Lithium ion Electricity Storage SYstem). The battery has been made possible by CERIO® technology, a special combination of ceramic materials and high-molecular ionic conductors, which ensures greatly increased safety combined with a small footprint and a long cycle lifetime.
Future power requirements for advanced storage systems in Germany alone lie in the high three-digit megawatt range. A project funded by the BMBF (the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research) under its LIB 2015 research initiative and scheduled to extend over three years will focus on the economic and technological viability of this kind of mega-battery for stationary applications. "Power storage systems such as these have enormous benefits for flexibly integrating renewable energies," says Carsten Kolligs, who heads the project at Evonik. As a first step, a storage system with a power of 1 megawatt and a storage capacity of roughly 700 kWh is being developed at the Völklingen power plant site in the Saarland. If this system were charged and discharged every fifteen minutes, the energy supplied would meet the needs of 4,000 households a year. "This is the first time ever that the generation and consumption of power have been cost-effectively decoupled—using lithium ceramic technology. We can stabilize grid fluctuations arising from solar and wind power generation, and can therefore organize power generation with far greater overall efficiency. As in the automotive sector, this is a billion-euro market," says Carsten Kolligs. Experts estimate market volume for advanced energy storage systems at more than €10 billion in the long term. In the future, stationary storage devices could also serve for temporary storage of power produced by photovoltaic systems in residential blocks that cannot be immediately consumed; this power could be stored for subsequent domestic consumption or, if demand is high, could profitably be fed into the public grid. It is even conceivable that renewable energies will meet the entire power requirements of smaller towns and cities. And reliable energy supply at locations where no infrastructure exists—in hospitals in developing countries, for example, or at remote research stations, or following a catastrophe—would no longer be a utopian vision. In the automotive sector, the innovation will be developed in welldefined phases. From 2011 onward, car batteries will be manufactured in Kamenz. A year later Mercedes-Benz models will be fitted with the batteries—and the electric Smart will hit the road.
In future, wind and sun energy should be efficiently storable, even on a large-scale. Evonik and its partners are therefore developing the world's largest lithium ceramic battery.more