As part of WMG’s Energy Innovation Centre, the new Battery Scale-Up Line enables electrochemists to create full-size prototype battery cells using novel chemistries without having to rely on battery manufacturers to make the larger cells.
The climate-controlled facility allows WMG’s technologists to manufacture, for detailed evaluation and characterisation, pouch cells that are intended for high density energy storage in electric and hybrid vehicle applications. Pouch cells are contained in flexible, heat-sealable foils that allow them to be tailored to specific shapes and sizes. The new facility also makes high reliability battery electrodes.
Previously, electrochemists have only been able to create very small “coin” cells using laboratory glove boxes (sealed units that allow researchers to manipulate materials in a contained environment). When promising new cell chemistries were established, researchers had to use battery manufacturers for the production of full size prototype pouch cells. However, for the fabrication process to be worthwhile, manufacturers would require large quantities of the prototype cells to be ordered, which was not cost effective for the research projects.
"Having the capability to make prototypes allows WMG and its industrial collaborators to evaluate novel battery chemistries created in our research projects in a more affordable and timely manner," said electrochemist Dr Rohit Bhagat. “After fabrication, the prototype cells are then evaluated for performance, battery life and safety in WMG’s comprehensive battery testing facilities”.
Unique U.K. Facility
Outfitted with pilot-scale production equipment and cutting-edge dry room technology, WMG’s Battery Scale-Up Facility is the only one of its kind in the UK. Because moisture is detrimental to batteries, causing the electrolyte to become acidic, the facility includes a climate-controlled dry room. A controller constantly monitors the humidity of the room and guarantees a dew point (the temperature at which dew forms) below -42°C with up to six people working inside.
One-Stop Shop for Battery R&D
The combination of the new Battery Scale-Up Line with the recently commissioned battery characterisation laboratory and established electric / hybrid drives test facility in WMG’s Energy Innovation Centre provides a one-stop-shop for the development of new battery chemistries from concept to fully proven traction batteries, available in sufficient quantities industrial-scale testing. The post-test facilities will help researchers understand the changes that occur in materials as a battery ages from use or testing.
The adoption of electric and hybrid propulsion systems is currently being held back by the energy storage capacity of present day commercially available lithium technology batteries. A five-fold increase in energy density is required to enable battery powered vehicles to achieve the range that conventional internal combustion engine cars offer with a tank of fuel. WMG’s Energy Innovation Centre is focussed on identifying and demonstrating battery chemistries with higher energy densities and improved safety while achieving the cost criteria set by the automotive industry.
Funding for the new facility is provided by UK Department of Business, Innovation and Skills via the Technology Strategy Board and the High Value Manufacturing Catapult.