Energy storage

Electrical storage has a key role to play in the energy transition. Not only to bridge the mismatch between power generation and power consumption of renewable energy, but also to improve electricity transmission. Extensive research is being carried out for better, safer and more efficient battery technologies.

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Activities

Electrical storage has a key role to play in the energy transition. Not only to bridge the mismatch between power generation and power consumption/use of renewable energy, but also to improve electricity transmission extensive research is being carried out for better, safer and more efficient battery technologies. In addition to new materials and technologies for batteries, EnergyVille is also looking for solutions to optimise existing battery technologies. The ultimate aim is to extend the battery range, lifetime and performance, and increase the charging rate without sacrificing safety.

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New materials for batteries

Batteries used in stationary applications, but also those for mobile use (car, drone, boot, airplane, bike) display specific needs towards the materials development.

The EnergyVille battery research covers the whole value chain from basic material research, over cell architectures and new battery concepts to battery management and system integration. For next generation Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries, we focus on solid-state batteries. In our small pilot line with dry room we scale up processes to demonstrate up to coin cells and Amp-hour pouch cells. The materials, processing and upscaling tasks are supported by strong modelling activities and advanced characterisation expertise. In addition, we look into more exploratory chemistries for beyond 2030. We also study more sustainable technologies as Lithium-Sulphur (LiS) -based batteries and work on improving their performance towards the next generation cheap batteries used in lightweight applications as drones, e-bikes, aerospace applications as well as the stationary or car batteries. Our attention also goes towards Natrium-ion (Na-ion) -based technologies having the abundancy of the material as an important advantage.

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Modelling, characterisation and testing of batteries and battery materials

In-depth characterisation of the cell performance and its constituents (e.g., cathode, anode, electrolyte, and separator) is a crucial step to assess the maturity of a new component or cell architecture. Moreover, longevity of batteries needs to be ensured for many thousands of cycles by performing so-called accelerated aging tests for applications in e.g. electric vehicles and stationary energy storage. Energy and power rating, thermal behaviour, and life-time are the most important technical signatures of a given battery. Advanced characterisation (i.e., electrochemical, chemical, physical) methods available in EnergyVille enable a comprehensive investigation of the battery behaviour. The experimental data are further interpreted with the aid of physics-based models in order to unequivocally and quantitatively interpret the results and to predict the battery behaviour beyond the timeframe of experiments (lifetime simulation).

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New battery cell architectures

Electrochemical cells are the building blocks of battery modules and packs and define to a large extent the energy-storage characteristics of a given battery design. Novel cell structures are essential to address the ever-increasing demand for lighter and safer batteries with higher power/storage capabilities. In this regard, R&D is required to decrease the contribution of the inactive components (e.g., current collectors, conductive additives, separator, electrolyte, binder, packaging, etc.) in the overall mass/volume of the cell. The advanced processing  and pouch-line infrastructure in EnergyVille aims to accelerate the R&D activities towards new electrolytes and electrodes where high loading of active-mass and high electronic/ionic conductivities are coupled to push the performance limits of the state-of-the-art (i.e., lithium-ion) batteries and to realize next generation (e.g., solid-state, Na-ion, lithium-sulphur, metal-air, etc.,) cell chemistries.

Batterijmaterialen

Exploratory cell concepts

Together with the exploration of new materials and cell architectures, we are exploring novel concepts for battery cells. In this out-of-the-box approach, we step away from conventional powder based composite batteries and look for new and improved ways to tackle requirements for future applications. For example, a flexible and thin form factor will be needed for flexible electronics, integrated small form batteries will be needed to power the internet of things. Nanostructured current collectors and thin-film materials are potential concepts which we explore. Also existing concepts such as metal-air and lithium-sulfur batteries will need out-of-the-box innovation to tackle some of the many remaining practical issues. Also here, novel nano-engineered battery concepts are being explored.

Ultracaps

New battery concepts

The development of new battery cell technologies and architectures goes hand in hand with the search for new concepts for battery modules and their integration within the total battery pack. The main focus is on the optimal battery configuration which preserves the performance of the battery technology, taking into account not only electrical but also thermal and mechanical aspects. To increase the flexibility of the storage system the proposed battery modules should be stackable andequipped with standardised connections to battery electrical and optionally  thermal management systems. This also contributes to the feasibility of second life applications, fitting the circular economy model envisaged by Europe.. This activity is heavily relying on the expertise at EnergyVille on battery materials and cell behaviour in different applications and environmental conditions.

Projects

LOGO CLEANH2

CLEANH2

How can we meet a continuous growing energy demand and how to do so while reducing our environmental carbon footprint?

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Nano-CCU

Nano-CCU aims to develop high-throughput electrolysers for CO2 capture and electrocatalytic conversion directly from gas or vapour at CO2 point sources.

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SYN-CAT

SYN-CAT seeks to develop a combination technology on the basis of direct sunlight and renewable energy to selectively convert CO2 into methanol.

Loho

Spotlight

The key objective is to develop and validate a photonic device and chemical process concept for the sunlight-powered conversion of CO2 and green H2.

Logo

SOLIDIFY

The SOLiDIFY project proposes a unique manufacturing process and solid-electrolyte material to fabricate Lithium-metal solid-state batteries.

Logo Lumen

Lumen

The aim of the Lumen project is to show that hydrogen and CO2, in combination with sunlight, can be converted into synthetic gas in a commercially profitable way.

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EPOC 2030-2050

The EPOC project under the energy transition fund combines the expertise of 14 Belgian partners to improve the current state-of-the art energy models.

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BREGILAB

The BREGILAB project will investigate in detail how solar energy can be havested with a minimal cost for grid expansion and batteries.

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PlasMACatDESIGN

We aim to develop design rules for (catalytically activated) packing materials to enhance plasma-activated gas phase conversion reactions to basic chemicals.

Labs

Battery Lab

Safe, durable, and non-expensive batteries are more and more desired to cope with the ever increasing need for higher shares of renewable energies into the energy mix and electrification of the transport sectors. Development and maturation of new battery technologies (e.g., all-solid-state, and beyond Li-ion) is a complex process and requires an efficient holistic approach with attention to chemical, processing, and manufacturability aspects, starting from early stages of design. In this regard, the potential for scale-up from low capacity coin-cells to high capacity multi-layer pouch cells, together with advanced characterization methods, are real assets to a battery R&D lab. Such a unique infrastructure is available in the battery development lab of EnergyVille to accelerate the development of new battery chemistries and designs. 

Advantages

EnergyVille with its unique combination of battery experts and advanced infrastructures offers a state-of-the-art battery R&D environment. In addition to a coin-cell line, the battery lab benefits from a unique capacity for preparation of porous electrodes up to A4 size, using a series of advanced mixing, coating, and calendering equipment. High quality pouch cells can be assembled inside a 85m2 dry room with a dew point of -45°C. The dry room accommodates an automatic pouch cell line with pneumatic cutter, automatic zig-zag stacker, ultrasonic welder, pouch sealer, and a vacuum chamber to facilitate the electrolyte injection and resealing after the formation cycle. Moreover, a group of ex-situ and in-situ characterization techniques are available to assess the electrochemical and physical properties of the cells and battery components, i.e. electrodes and electrolyte.

Slurry & electrode processing:

  • Slurry mixing: planetary ball mill, horizontal bead mill, vertical vacuum mixer, planetary centrifugal vacuum mixer
  • Desktop coater (tape casting), automated coater (tape casting & slot-die) with hot-air drying head
  • 30 ton calendering unit with heated rollers

Pouch and coin-cell assembly:

  • Coin cell: pressure-driven coin-cell crimper inside glove box
  • Pouch cell: semi-automatic pouch cell assembly in dry room: cutter, zig-zag stacker, ultrasonic welder, sides and tab sealer, vacuum chamber for electrolyte injection

In-situ & ex-situ characterization of cell, electrode, and electrolyte:

  • Electrochemical: 8-channel battery cycler (up to 15A), 16-channel potentiostat for advanced electrochemical characterization techniques (up to 400mA), with cooling and heating chambers, rotating ring-disk electrode (RRDE).
  • Physical/chemical: helium pycnometer for measuring the electrode porosity, liquid density meter for liquid electrolytes, Karl Fischer titrator for measuring the water content, In-situ coin-cell calorimeter for thermal characterization of a battery under load, zeta-potential analyser for concentrated solutions, rheometer for both rotational and oscillatory rheological tests, gas mass spectrometer for in-situ analysis of gases during formation cycle of batteries.

Applications

A broad range of projects can be realized, from evaluation of new battery concepts to optimization of existing technologies.

  • Investigation and optimization of new formulations for battery components (electrode, electrolyte, separator).
  • Demonstration of new battery concepts and designs in high capacity pouch cells.
  • Detailed analysis of electrochemical and thermal signature of cells.
  • In-depth analysis of aging phenomena, fault detection, and post-mortem analyses.
  • Compatibility assessment of new battery/component designs with existing industrial battery production norms.

Customers

Producers of battery components

  • Active-materials
  • Conductive additives
  • Binders
  • Solvents, salts, and electrolyte additives
  • Separators and packaging materials

Battery end-users (e.g. residential storage, electric vehicles)

  • In-depth analysis of a battery design/chemistry for a given application
  • Proof of concept and demonstration of new battery designs in pouch cells

Technical notes

The main equipment in the Battery Lab, together with their technical specifications are summarized below: 

Mixing, coating and drying

  • Vertical vacuum mixer: 250ml capacity, 20,000rpm (6000rpm under vacuum)
  • Horizontal bead mill: milling chamber of 50ml and slurry volume up to 750ml, bead sizes from 0.25 to 1mm
  • Planetary ball mill: 250ml jar, final fineness <1mm
  • Electrode coater: coating width 200mm, knife and slot-die, speed of 0.1-1 m/min, hot-air drying system
  • Calendering unit: roller width 300 mm with heating option (150°C), compacting pressure of ~1500N/m (30t @ 200mm)
  • Thermal vacuum ovens: 55 litre, up to 200°C and pressure down to 0.01mbar

Coin cell assembly inside Ar-filled glove box

Cell assembly (@ dry room with dew point of -45°C)

  • Electrode puncher (cutter): pneumatic cutter for anodes and cathodes with a default size of 32*46 and 31*45mm
  • Z-fold electrode/separator stacking unit: automatic pick-up and positioning of the electrodes from anode and cathode trays, automatic winding/unwinding of separator roll, pneumatic control of tension on separator
  • Ultrasonic tab welder: ~20kHz ultrasonic welding unit for battery tab
  • Side and tab pouch sealer: sealing length up to 300mm

Characterization

  • Battery cycler: 8 channels, 0-9V, up to 15A, cooling/heating chambers -5 to 100°C
  • Potentiostat: 16 channels, up to 450mA, 0-20V, 1nA resolution, 8 channels with EIS
  • RRDE: ~100-8000rpm, 15ml sample volume
  • Zeta potential analyser: pH 0-14, up to 60% solid content
  • Rheometer: force range ~0.01 to 50N, angular velocity ~10-8 to 300rad/s
  • Helium pycnometer: gas displacement for measuring the porosity of porous electrodes
  • Liquid density meter: density range of 0 to 3g/cm³, resolution of 0.001g/cm³
  • Gas mass spectrometer: 200amu, <500ms response time, sensitivity <5ppb, 5.10-15mbar
  • Battery calorimeter: in-situ thermal characterization of coin cells between -5 and 80°C, 0.1mW to 0.5W heat flux detection
  • Karl Fischer titrator: water detection in a range of 1ppm to 5%

DESINe Lab

This lab provides an ideal environment for an efficient screening and evaluation of the new concept materials and electrode architectures for electrochemical energy storage and conversion applications. A wide range of processing equipment, as well as equipment for electrochemical characterisation is available to weigh the pros and cons of the candidate materials or concepts at lab scale. For electrochemical energy storage applications, our infrastructure supports the whole processing flow, from raw materials till coin cells, which can then also be electrochemically tested on-site. Apart from (temperature dependent) cycling tests, also more advanced electrochemical characterisation such as electrochemical impedance spectroscopy, and in-operando Raman spectroscopy measurements are possible.

Advantages

  • Fast response time
  • In-depth evaluation of the results and expert feedback
  • Materials expertise (synthesis, processing, characterisation, …)
  • Access to a large array of processing equipment and chemical as well as physical characterisation methods, available within Hasselt University and its Institute for Materials Research (IMO)

Applications

  • Electrochemical devices, such as:
    • Batteries
    • Supercapacitors
    • Fuel cells
    • Electrolysers

Customers

  • Producers of: electrochemically active electrode materials, binders, current collectors, (liquid or solid) electrolytes, cell packaging, additives, separators, etc.
  • Cell manufacturers (batteries, supercapacitors, fuel cells, electrolysers)

Organic Semiconductor Lab

Our key competence relates to the synthesis and characterization of organic and hybrid organic-inorganic semiconducting materials and their integration in opto-electronic devices with focus on photovoltaic and healthcare applications, hereby pursuing rational structure-property relations. We conduct both fundamental and applied research and have a longstanding tradition in joint scientific R&D within European, national and regional projects, as well as servicing for industry and research centers. We can provide support in all steps from material development to advanced (structural and opto-electronic) material characterization, device analysis and prototype product manufacturing.

Advantages

The materials chemistry and (device) physics expertise related to organic and hybrid semiconductors, and the state-of-the-art research infrastructure available at the Institute for Materials Research imo-imomec, is unique in the Flemish/Belgian landscape and is competitive on the highest European level, as can be seen from our representation in various national and international networks, research programs and projects.

Applications

  • Organic and hybrid organic-inorganic perovskite photovoltaics
  • Photodetectors for visible and near-infrared range
  • Organic light-emitting diodes and devices for bio-sensing and bio-electronics
  • Organic photosensitizers

Customers

All types of companies interested in applying emerging and soft semiconducting materials in opto-electronic applications, for energy and advanced healthcare applications.

Contact

dr. Lieve De Doncker

dr. Lieve De Doncker
Location
Wetenschapspark 1, 3590 Diepenbeek, Belgium
Function
Business Developer

EnergyVille

Energieville II 03
Location
Thor Park 8320, 3600 Genk, Belgium
Function
Research institute