Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Nanomaterials Key Evonik Drive to #1 Position in Europe for Battery Materials

Evonik aims to be Europe’s no. 1 manufacturer of large-format lithium-ion battery cells and components. We already play a leading role in this key technology, which is poised to open up a wide range of new applications: cordless power tools and home appliances, the storage of wind energy and solar power and, above all, resource-saving hybrid and electric vehicles. Double-digit growth rates make automotive applications the largest and most attractive market in this field. Experts predict that the market for high-performance lithium-ion battery materials will exceed €4 billion within the next decade and that demand for batteries could top €10 billion in the same timeframe.

Evonik’s ceramic-coated nano-membrane battery separator is an innovative breakthrough. Evonik positioned itself early on in the growing market for lithium-ion battery components and is now one of the technology leaders. Building on its expertise in specialty chemicals, in recent years we have invested specifically in the development and commercialization of lithium-ion battery materials, together with construction of the necessary production facilities.

Compared to conventional battery systems that use lead or nickel, lithium-ion batteries are smaller, lighter, more powerful, and lose very little energy when not used for prolonged periods. Lithium, an alkali metal, is extremely suitable for rechargeable batteries as it is the lightest metal and produces the highest voltage in the cell. Electric drives with these high-performance batteries are now nearing mass market readiness. Experts estimate that zero-emission fully-electric vehicles could gain 10 percent of the European market over the next ten years. Energy, electronics and automotive companies are currently building the necessary infrastructure and defining uniform standards, for example, for plugs and charging stations for electric vehicles. Since May 2009 Evonik has been involved in the cross-sector initiative ELAN 2020, which was established to promote electro-mobility. Its work includes investigating the requirements for a safe, economical and widespread infrastructure for electric vehicles.

The strategic alliance in the field of lithium-ion batteries concluded by Evonik and Daimler AG on December 15, 2008 is a milestone on the road to establishing electric vehicles. Based on Evonik’s technology and Daimler’s expertise, the two companies are driving forward joint research, development and production of lithium-ion battery cells and systems for the automotive industry. In recent years Evonik has invested around €80 million in the development of technology for serial production of cells for large-format lithium-ion batteries.

Süd-Chemie AG, Munich and Evonik Industries AG, Essen have agreed to enter into a supply partnership aimed at using novel materials in the next generation of lithium-ion batteries for automobiles and other industrial applications. By entering into this agreement, both enterprises have laid the foundation for the preferred delivery by Süd-Chemie to Evonik of the high performance energy storage material of the future, lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4, also referred to as LFP), to be used in rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. The use of lithium iron phosphate in lithium-ion batteries will significantly improve the conditions for a swift and wide-scale introduction of more powerful electric drives for the next generation of hybrid and electric-drive vehicles.

Süd-Chemie will be responsible for manufacturing the high-grade lithium iron phosphate in line with the required specifications, and for technical customer service. With the aid of the cathode material lithium iron phosphate, Evonik intends to develop to market maturity high-powered cell components for both mobile and stationary applications via its subsidiary Evonik Litarion GmbH, focusing initially on the European market.

The main features of lithium iron phosphate which make it especially suitable for use in lithium-ion batteries are its high energy density, its high cycle stability, long life and above all, the intrinsic safety of the material.

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