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News – What`s happening in energy research

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In the 1,500 square metre research factory, KIT is developing a new type of production process for more cost-efficient, high performance lithium-ion batteries.
© Martin Lober, KIT
KIT research factory
04.09.2013

High quality batteries can be assembled in the drying room with a dew point of almost -80 degrees Celsius.
© KIT

Lithium-ion batteries in mass production

At the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), the small-scale production of lithium-ion cells has begun. The goal in the research factory is to reduce production costs by developing process engineering for the mass market. Researchers aim to use this to help the lithium-ion batteries make a breakthrough as stationary and mobile storage facilities.

Lithium-ion batteries are regarded as being suitable storage facilities for electric cars and stationary operation. However, until now, their high production costs and limited performance capability have been an obstacle to market entry. Researchers at the KIT want to further develop the technology for mass production to enable the batteries to contribute to the success of the energy revolution.

A new research factory was put into operation in order to carry out the development work. The production hall, which is almost 1,500 square metres in size, is located on the Campus Nord site of the KIT. The system technology was purchased with the financial support of the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology. “With this new type of research infrastructure, we are now already beginning at an early stage to validate and automate any production processes which are still underdeveloped, making them compatible with industrial scale production,” explains Prof. Dr. Jürgen Fleischer. He and his team are responsible for the establishment of the research factory and production research.

In order to increase the efficiency and performance capability of the lithium-ion cells, individual production stages have been completely newly developed for the manufacturing process. “We are now moving away from using tried and tested production technologies, and are developing completely new production and integration methods for lithium-ion cells,” he explains. The technologies which have been developed will now be put through their paces with test runs and campaigns with larger piece numbers through to the production stage. The first demonstrators were erected while the research factory was being established in order to show battery use in electric commercial vehicles and as a stationary storage facility in private homes and in industry.

Drying room concept developed for lithium-ion cells

Together with mechanical engineers and plant manufacturers, researchers aim to develop new drying, coating and calendering techniques for electrode materials and assembly procedures for cells. With this goal in mind, a new type of drying room concept was implemented with cooperation partner M+W Group in Stuttgart. Lithium-ion cells can now be built in extremely dry ambient conditions. At nearly -80 degrees Celsius, the dew point, a measure for the degree of dryness in the air, almost reaches the limit of the air humidity measuring devices, setting a record for the production of lithium batteries.

Project partner sought for battery development

“From now, any interested companies which create value in Germany are invited to make use of the unique opportunities presented by this research factory,” explains Dr. Andreas Gutsch, project coordinator at Competence E. Cooperation options range from simple access to the production infrastructure through to joint developments and contract research and development.

(cg)

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