Specialty chemicals company Albemarle Corporation opened a Battery Materials Innovation Center (BMIC) at its Kings Mountain, North Carolina, site. The BMIC is expected to be fully operational in July 2021 and will support Albemarle’s lithium hydroxide, lithium carbonate and advanced energy storage materials growth platforms.
The BMIC has been equipped to enable synthesis of new materials, material properties characterization and analysis, material scale-up capabilities, and material integration into battery cells for performance testing.
The facility includes a dry room with a multi-layer pouch cell line that can create cell-phone sized batteries to demonstrate critical aspects of battery performance and accelerate transition of new products to customers. The lab will also develop lithium metal anode technologies that will increase battery energy density by utilizing advanced lithium metal rolling to achieve lithium foils 20 microns thinor thinner.
The team plans to demonstrate lithium foils as thin as 3 to 5 microns using new technologies currently being developed.
The completion of the Battery Materials Innovation Center provides us with realistic and relevant cell building capabilities to generate meaningful data for next-gen battery material design. With this new resource, we will be equipped to optimize our lithium materials for a drop-in solution for customers that help them deliver high-performing cost-effective batteries for the rapidly growing electric vehicle market.—Dr. Glen Merfeld, Albemarle Lithium Chief Technology Officer
Currently, Albemarle is the only US-based producer of lithium metal anodes; these and other novel materials developed in the company’s labs will enable the next frontier of lithium-ion battery performance.
In a 14 June roundtable discussion hosted by the US Department of Energy, Dr. Merfeld stressed that advancements in lithium recovery and battery performance are critical to maximizing the energy yield of every gram of active lithium material. Moving from conventional graphite battery anodes to lithium metal offers the potential to double energy density and reduce cost by as much as 50%.
Innovations that leapfrog current technologies and encourage step changes in disruptive cathode and next-generation anode manufacturing will make the future of high-capacity lithium-ion batteries possible.