Batteries have changed the way we power our world. They provide us energy without being wired to a grid and are key to all mobile applications, from microbatteries (e.g. for medical implants or Internet of Things devices), over mid-range batteries (e.g. power tools) to large capacity batteries (e.g. automotive applications). They are also key in keeping the grid in balance mitigating large fluctuations in both (renewable energy) generation and consumption.

Dry Room in the Battery Testing Lab

EnergyVille’s battery research covers the whole application spectrum from micro to macro storage and offers knowledge and expertise along the complete value chain, starting from the synthesis of electrode and electrolyte materials, up to advanced characterisation of batteries, ageing studies, post-mortem analysis, and development of battery management systems for estimation of state-of-charge and state-of-health. Here at EnergyVille, chemists, physicists, materials scientists and engineers collaborate to overcome the many fundamental and practical hurdles on the road to the development of a new or improved battery technology. Technologies currently under investigation include lithium ion batteries (LIB), solid-state LIB, sodium ion, Li-S as well as Li-air batteries. State-of-the-art facilities and pilot line equipment at EnergyVille offer a large flexibility to adapt to various industrial and academic needs.

Synthesis

EnergyVille researchers produce innovative cathode and anode materials via a range of chemical synthesis routes according to desired specifications (yield, particle size, phase composition, …). This includes synthesis of the active materials themselves as well as functionalisation or coating of their surfaces to improve chemical compatibility or electrochemical performance. Furthermore, EnergyVille paves the way for next generation all-solid-state batteries, by replacing conventional liquid organic electrolytes, which pose inherent safety issues (due to e.g. their flammability and low decomposition temperature), and limit the use of high voltage electrode materials, by innovative solid composite electrolytes with high lithium ion conductivity (target 100 mS/cm) thanks to a symbiosis of advanced chemistries and architectures. Although the current focus of EnergyVille is Li-ion technology, we also look further down the road and are already actively investigating other promising battery chemistries such as Na-ion, Li-air and Li-sulphur batteries.

electrolyt

Coating

For testing the obtained electrode materials in a battery, the active material powders are coated as a slurry onto metallic current collector foils. Traditionally, this slurry contains, apart from the active material also carbon black (to improve electronic conductivity throughout the electrode layer), a polymeric binder (to improve mechanical stability of the electrode layer and to ensure a good adhesion to the current collector) and a suitable solvent. EnergyVille researchers characterise and optimise formulations for both organic solvent and aqueous based slurries and adapt processing methods and post-treatments for more advanced technologies. Depending on the needs, our equipment offers slurry preparation and processing (e.g. drying, calendering, …) possibilities from millilitre quantities all the way up to the level of litres as needed for piloting and pouch cell production.

Cell assembly

EnergyVille offers facilities for assembling a variety of cell architectures, including coin cells and pouch cells. Coin cells, assembled in our argon glovebox, are ideal for screening of novel active materials, electrolytes, additives and processing parameters. 

Our industrial pilot-line for pouch cells, situated in our dry room of approximately 100 square meters (0.6 ± 0.1% relative
humidity), offers the ability to assess the promise and feasibility of scaling up a battery technology from lab to market. High quality pouch cells are assembled using state-of-the-art equipment such as a pneumatic cutter, an automatic zig-zag stacker and an ultrasonic welder.

Coin Cells

Battery testing

Cells are thoroughly investigated by various electrochemical tests (e.g. capacity, rate capability, cycle life, reliability, electrochemical impedance, ...). The results of these tests form a direct feedback loop for optimisation of material synthesis, processing, and cell assembly. EnergyVille is able to run these tests for a variety of cell architectures (including coin cells and pouch cells) in parallel over long periods of time, at a temperature of choice. Using post-mortem analysis, in which the cells are reopened to recover the active materials for further analysis, the obtained electrochemical results can be correlated to processes which happen at the electrodes during cycling. Moreover, advanced characterisations (including scanning probe microscopies and atom probe tomography), and in-operando studies are conducted to obtain a comprehensive picture of dynamics of chemical and physical phenomena inside the batteries.

Collaboration models

EnergyVille bridges the gap between small scale studies and industrial commercial production. Industrial and academic partners join forces from basic research up till upscaling studies on our pilot line. EnergyVille is flexible in setting up win-win collaboration models, but most popular models are:

  • Long term pre-competitive research: participation in an industrial affiliation program in which companies along the value chain (material, equipment and cell & module manufacturing and academic partners) join forces in sharing the cost, risk and IP of new and innovative processes and device developments.
  • Short term research: bilateral research projects focusing on the customer’s specific technology development request 
  • EnergyVille welcomes industrial residents to take part in its research.
Lieve De Doncker

Contact

Lieve De Doncker

Business Developer Solar and Storage Materials at EnergyVille/UHasselt
Bart Onsia

Contact

Bart Onsia

Business Developer Solar at EnergyVille/imec