Sustainable battery production in Europe

Date: Mar 6, 2019

Scientists of the Helmholtz Institute Ulm (HIU) founded by Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and their European cooperation partners are developing a sustainable cell concept that is exclusively based on ecologically and economically uncritical materials. Within the Si-DRIVE project, the consortium analyzes the complete value-added chain of a battery and plans to establish European production by 2030. The project is funded by the European Union (EU) with EUR 8 million. The project duration is four years.

Presently, about 90 percent of the lithium-ion cells are produced in Asia. Various efforts are being undertaken to establish battery production in Europe. Si-DRIVE is aimed at developing a cell that consists of a nanostructured silicon anode, a novel solid electrolyte based on ionic liquids, and a completely cobalt-free, but lithium-rich cathode. A cell of this type and a comprehensive recycling program might enable sustainable battery production.

“Our program is special, as we cover all steps of the value-added chain of a battery, from materials development to prototype cell fabrication to recycling,” says Professor Stefano Passerini, Director of HIU. Within the project, his team will develop the novel, cobalt-free cathode material using uncritical elements, such as iron or aluminum. Cobalt is listed as a critical resource by the European Commission, as it is scarce and difficult to access geopolitically, which may cause supply shortages. Moreover, cobalt extraction in the Democratic Republic of the Congo – one of the main cobalt-exporting countries in the world – sometimes involves child labor and work under inhumane conditions. “In order to enhance energy density, we want to significantly increase the lithium content in the layered oxide cathode compared to conventional materials,” Passerini adds.

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