A cleaner, faster and cheaper method

Photo credit: Joule (2023). DOI: 10.1016/j.joule.2023.04.006

Prepare the stage

A research group led by Yan Wang at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a novel, environmentally friendly process for manufacturing lithium-ion battery electrodes.

These new electrodes are cheaper and charge faster than their current counterparts, and their introduction could have a significant impact on electric vehicle battery manufacturing.

The breakthrough process

In the journal Joule, the team described a solvent-free dry print manufacturing method.

This new technique eliminates the use of toxic solvents and lengthy drying times—common hurdles when using traditional methods to fabricate electrodes with slurries.

Wang, WPI William B. Smith Dean’s professor in the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, believes this innovative process could be scaled up, resulting in a potential 15% reduction in electrode manufacturing costs.

In addition, these newly made electrodes could be charged much faster than those made using traditional methods.

Why it matters

Wang explained, “Current lithium-ion batteries charge too slowly, and manufacturers typically use flammable, toxic, and expensive solvents that increase production time and costs.”

The newly introduced solvent-free process is the answer to these disadvantages. It can produce electrodes that charge up to 78% of capacity in just 20 minutes and requires no solvents, slurries or long production times.

How it works

Commercial lithium-ion battery electrodes are typically manufactured through the combination of active materials, conductive additives, polymers, and organic solvents.

This mixture forms a slurry that is spread out on a metal substrate, dried in an oven, and cut into pieces for battery use. The solvents are then recovered through a distillation process.

On the other hand, the team’s method is to combine electrically charged dry powders. When sprayed onto a metal substrate, the powder will stick.

The dry coated electrodes are then heated and compacted with rollers.

This method, which skips the traditional drying and solvent recovery process, reduces energy consumption in battery manufacture by an estimated 47%, according to the researchers’ report.

A commitment to greener batteries

Wang has always looked for ways to improve lithium-ion batteries and minimize the waste they generate. He co-founded Ascend Elements, a company focused on developing battery recycling technologies.

With this new breakthrough, the vision of greener and more efficient lithium-ion batteries is getting closer and closer to reality.

The study was published in joules.

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