Research factory develops novel production processes for lithium-ion batteries

August 27, 2013 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles and stationary applications have two things in common: Weak performance and (too) high price level. The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) now has launched a "research factory" where new production technologies can be developed and tested.

The research factory helps scientists and engineers to validate and automatize yet immature production processes. "This will speed the industrialization of such processes", says Juergen Fleischer, team manager of the project "Competence E" who oversees the construction of the production line and also leads the manufacturing research activities.

The goal of the research project is to provide cost-efficient and powerful lithium-ion cells for fast-charging vehicles as well as for stationary energy storage devices. In the research factory, innovative manufacturing steps for mass production of such battery cells will be developed and tested from scratch. "We leave the path of known production technology and start to develop completely new production and integration processes for lithium-ion cells", says Fleischer.

Along with commercial machine and plant engineering and construction firms, the team will develop methods for drying, coating and calendering of the electrode material as well as new assembly methods at the cell level. For instance, the group implemented a novel drying room concept jointly with clean room expert company M+W Group. This concept enables user companies to produce lithium ion batteries under extremely dry conditions, a precondition for high product quality. In this environment, the dew point, a measure of air dryness, is as low as almost -80°C, a new record in lithium-ion battery production.

The research institution hopes to establish further collaborations with the industry. The spectrum of options ranges from simple access to the production infrastructure to joint development projects and to contract R&D projects.

The production hall covers an area of almost 1500 square meters and is located on the KIT North Campus. At the upcoming International Automotive Fair IAA in Frankfurt, the KIT plans to introduce a battery-electric city bus as a prototype.