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Li-ion Maker fortu PowerCell GmbH Considering Michigan Plant

10 July 2009

German battery developer fortu PowerCell GmbH will soon begin a search for a west Michigan location, pending approval of state and local incentives, for a battery pack manufacturing facility, according to a statement by Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm.

Professor Günther Hambitzer originally founded fortu in 1997 to concentrate on battery technology characterized by a high energy per unit of weight, long operational life, and avoidance of environmental concerns relative to its manufacture and disposal. After a liquidation of the company in 2002, Hambitzer revived fortu in the summer of 2003.

The fortu system consisted of a lithium-cobalt-dioxide cathode (LiCoO2), a graphite anode, and an inorganic electrolyte based on SO2. The conducting salt is lithium tetrachloroaluminate (LiAlCl4).

In a 2006 paper in the Journal of Applied Electrochemistry, fortu researchers described their efforts in developing the rechargeable lithium battery based on a novel safety concept.

The cell needs no complicated charge/discharge control mechanisms, because there are no safety risks which can arise during cycling, overcharging or deep discharging. Stable cell behaviour is ensured by a new system based on an inorganic electrolyte.

To get better electrical properties we have developed a purification method for the components of the battery cell. The system also allows a higher deintercalation state of the positive electrode to be reached than is possible with standard lithium-ion cells.

—Zinck et al. (2006)

The purification process for removing lithium hydroxide (a source of instability) from the cathode resulted in no significant change in either capacity or internal resistance in the cells when cycled. Up to 70% of the theoretical capacity of electrodes which have been purified in this way can be used without any negative effects being observed, according to fortu.

The company has identified several potential market areas, including vehicle, battery back-up systems for cell phone transmitters, power-generation plants and niche recreational vehicles.

The governor made the announcement after returning from a 48-hour investment mission to Germany and Belgium. While in Belgium, Granholm met with Hansen Transmissions, the world’s second-largest producer of wind energy gearboxes, to pitch Michigan as a possible location for the company’s service and repair facility.

Granholm’s previous investment missions to Germany, Austria, Japan, Sweden, and the Middle East resulted in 45 companies announcing more than $955.8 million in new investment and nearly 11,000 jobs created and retained. Officials from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and NextEnergy also accompanied Granholm on the mission.

Resources

  • L. Zinck et al. (2006) Purification process for an inorganic rechargeable lithium battery and new safety. Journal of Applied Electrochemistry 36:1291–1295 doi: 10.1007/s10800-006-9184-1

  • fortu PowerCell GmbH (HBS 9-805-159)

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