Solar Energy

Silicon for Lithium Batteries Moves to Commercial Production

A company in the US called Group14 Technologies has announced the start of construction of a factory capable of manufacturing 120 tons of silicon carbon-based anode material annually. This material is commonly used for lithium-ion batteries. The said factory will be situated at the headquarters of Group14 in Woodinville, Washington. It will serve as the first of many factories planned to be built by the company.

Before we continue with the Group14 batteries, let’s watch the video below that talks about the energy density of silicon batteries compared to others.

Group14’s Batteries

Group14 Technologies’ innovation, the silicon-carbon material SCC55, is designed to be graphite’s direct replacement in lithium-ion batteries. It is said to have carried ten times more energy density than graphite. As a result, researchers have focused their attention on silicon as being a potential anode material. The challenge lies on the tendency of the material to expand.

This has caused the company to be held back from applying it commercially. The company’s priority is on large-scale solutions and how to optimize the designing and development cost.

Rick Constantino, Group14’s CTO, says that the SCC55’s manufacturing process is initially designed to be quickly and efficiently scaled. This is to be used for daily use, such as consumer electronics and vehicle features. The material is made from a carbon scaffold wherein there is a 3 to 5 nanometer of amorphous silicon particle inside.

The vacuum inside of the scaffold provides expansion room for the silicon. At the same time, the carbon at the surface creates a stable interface together with the electrolyte. Batteries that have SCC55 as the anode side is said to be stable even beyond 500 cycles. If combined with a graphite material, various stability ratios can be obtained beyond 1000 to 2000 cycles.

Rick Luebbe, Group14’s CEO, says that customers always want a boost of their battery’s capacity. The company’s material can generally provide a 50-percent increase.

With Li-on batteries having incurred billions of investments, Rick believes that their innovation can be seamlessly integrated. However, as of now, the material cost remains confidential.

Plans for Expansion

As the addition of silicon is confirmed to increase the Li-on battery’s capacity to 70 percent, Group14’s goal is to take advantage by being the leading manufacturer of a material based on the findings.

Recently, the company declares that they already distributed SCC55 to industries that deal with the masses’ needs. That leading battery manufacturers are currently evaluating the batteries’ material for vehicle usage.

Expansion is already in the minds of Group14, and they plan to double their facility’s capacity at year’s end. In addition, the company formed a partnership with REC Silicon, a producer of solar polysilicon, to optimize the latter’s capacity in silane gas production.

Aside from that, the company is keen on starting the construction of another factory around 2021 in the Moses Lake site. With this, their commitment to clean energy is now undeniable.

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