CSIRO develops solid state lithium battery production

Image credit: Nick Pitsas

On Thursday, September 12, CSIRO announced that it had formalised an agreement with Japanese chemical manufacturer Piotrek to commercialise Australian battery technology.

The agreement covers a licensing agreement for CSIRO’s existing technology for the creation of ionic liquid electrolytes, for use in lithium ion batteries. These electrolytes are non-volatile and non-flammable. CSIRO will also work with Piotrek to produce solid state lithium batteries. This technology is critical for next generation batteries, according to CSIRO battery research leader, Dr Adam Best, who spoke with Manufacturers’ Monthly.

“This will make these batteries safer, more compact, and easier to manufacture over the longer term,” said Best.

The non-flammable and stable qualities of the batteries enables the technology to overcome current concern around the volatility of electric batteries, particularly when used in vehicles and for utility energy storage. Meeting safety and storage concerns is key for the project, said Best.

“How do we make those batteries safer but also provide the energy density and range that people want so they can get places without having to recharge,” said Best.

With more stable lithium batteries, various other applications can be found and electrified, including in aerospace for both cargo and passenger flights, as well as extending the range and reliability of drones.

To develop the technology, CSIRO has employed its proprietary Reversible Addition-Fragmentation chain Transfer (RAFT) technology. Piotrek then combines this technology with its Ion Conducting Polymers (ICP) to manufacture the batteries at commercial quantities.

“Piotrek has the knowledge and knowhow to help us bring Australian technology to the world,” said Best.

Based in Japan, which manufacturers and supplies 50 per cent of the world’s lithium batteries, means that Australian technology has a direct link to the global market, as general manager at Piotrek, Ihei Sada, noted.

“Together we will develop the world’s safest, longer life solid state high energy battery.”

Although Australia mines 43 per cent of the global supply of lithium, most of the advanced manufacturing which results from this resources takes place offshore. While this partnership sees one link in this chain being located in Australia, Best noted that there is still more to do.

“There is no one in Australia who currently makes lithium salts, which go into batteries, so that’s definitely a future opportunity and we would love to partner with an Australian company to bring those things to market,” said Best.

With this project between CSIRO and Piotrek bringing one step of the process to Australia, there is potential for further onshore manufacturing, as CSIRO’s Dr John Chiefari highlighted.

“By developing and exploiting disruptive technology platforms, we’re supporting the creation of new businesses and industries for Australia and the world,” said Chiefari.

What this will require, however, is the demonstration of Australian manufacturing’s capabilities, said Best.

“We need to show that Australian smarts and innovation can reduce waste, improve efficiency, enhance productivity, and obviously reduce the cost of these batteries.”