Recently researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have been examining the problem of limited charge-discharge cycles in the lives of nanostructured silicon anodes on lithium-ion batteries.
While nanostructured silicon anodes have a longer life than the pure silicon variety, they are still not up to the standards set by lowly old graphite in this respect. But it appears that one company is undeterred by this drawback.
California Lithium Battery Inc. (CalBattery) announced last week that it has entered into a Work for Others (WFO) agreement with Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) to commercialize what is being dubbed the “GEN3” lithium-ion battery. The GEN3 battery is largely based on Argonne’s provisionally patented silicon-graphene battery anode process.
(On a bit of a side note, the researchers who were named in the anode patent are all part of the Hersam Research Group at Northwestern University, which seems to be growing into a leader in the development of graphene-based silicon anodes.)
In the press release and the video below, CalBattery says that it can produce the GEN3 battery in the United States at a cost reduction of 70 percent. I’m not sure what they're comparing it to—nor if that means they are reducing the production costs by 70 percent or the actual purchase price of the Li-ion battery by that amount. But in any case, it seems they believe that this cost reduction will be a “huge breakthrough.”
According to Phil Roberts, CEO of CalBattery, the plan is to use a Very Large Format (VLF) battery and apply the new graphene-enabled silicon anodes to them.
“Incredibly, some energy storage systems providers and independent power producers today are using hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of small cylindrical cell batteries in massive utility-scale storage systems. This approach is simply too costly and not viable. Large storage must be built from large batteries, not small batteries originally designed for powered hand tools. Our VLF battery has a clear performance and cost advantage in providing the massive currents needed with the minimum materials and battery management components, resulting in a more affordable lithium-ion battery for wide-scale use.”
It is encouraging news that some commercial interests are looking to bring a recently developed nanotechnology-enabled solution for improving Li-ion batteries to market . However, my enthusiasm is somewhat tempered by the emphasis that is being placed on refining the battery for electric vehicle (EV) applications.
I suppose this interest in the EV market is why they decided to apply the graphene-silicon anodes to the VLF batteries. Maybe that can make the difference in an arena where so many companies are struggling or have failed outright.