How solid-state battery technology will revolutionize our daily lives

In the 1970s, in the midst of the oil crisis, the British company Whittingham demonstrated the advantage of lithium over the other metals used until then (copper, platinum, nickel, etc.) in order to store more energy with less space. and reduced weight. , while providing longer battery life. With funding from oil major Exxon, he created the first lithium battery. In 1980, the American Goodenough began replacing the sulfide in the cathode with cobalt oxide, doubling the performance of the battery by increasing its voltage. But the rapid release of electrons and the agglomeration of lithium ions at the end of the electrodes require stabilization, due to the risk of short-circuiting. This was made in 1985 by the Japanese Yoshino.

A sense of urgency

With globalization, where trade is intensifying, the world needs more and more energy. Production is accelerating (nuclear, solar, wind, etc.) but new storage technologies are absolutely essential. Currently, it is not known how to store electricity efficiently without losing it during transport (Joule effect). In addition, with global warming, greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced. Carbon neutrality is becoming urgent and it is with this in mind that companies like Total Energy have announced that they will be carbon neutral by 2050. At the same time, sales of electric cars are multiplying, with a strong growth market where the number of vehicles in use is expected to increase by 725% between 2016 and 2021.

Source: Statista – Estimated number of electric vehicles in circulation worldwide between 2016 and 2021

A major evolution in battery technology

A lithium-ion battery consists of one or more cells, each with a positive electrode (the cathode), a negative electrode (the anode), a separator and an electrolyte. Depending on the chemical components and materials used for these elements, the properties of the battery will be different and will impact the amount of energy stored and power delivered, as well as the number of charge and discharge cycles performed (called cyclability). ). Despite major technical advances in this sector, this technology is beginning to run out of steam and new challenges are emerging, such as the constant search for more economical, denser, lighter and more powerful electrochemical systems, with lower production costs.

Scientists are turning to different battery projects, but we will see the one that presents the best provisions to revolutionize the electrical world, namely solid-state batteries. In a world where a transition in the production and storage of energy will revolutionize our daily lives, it is essential to study the advances and projects of these new batteries.

A solid-state battery consists of two electrodes in contact with a conductive element (electrolyte) and isolated by a separator. There is a negative electrode (anode) and a positive electrode (cathode). The materials used in the composition of the anode and the cathode will change and be made with more efficient lithium and thus positively influence the energy potential of the battery. The liquid electrolyte is replaced by a solid inorganic compound allowing the diffusion of lithium ions.

These new generation batteries have many major advantages, mainly in terms of safety, environment, performance and production cost. Solid electrolytes are non-flammable when heated, unlike their liquid counterparts. The battery has a higher energy density, up to twice that of lithium-ion batteries for the same volume, with greater tolerance to overcharging and deep charging. It also has a lower environmental impact thanks to the reduction of rare materials: lithium, cobalt, toxic materials, heavy materials and hazardous chemicals.

Additionally, lithium mining consumes massive amounts of water, both in the mining process and in the evaporation ponds used to produce the lithium-rich crystals. These extraction and processing activities are very dangerous and extremely devastating for the surrounding ecosystems. The same goes for cobalt, which produces many air pollutants such as uranium and releases large amounts of sulfur into the water cycle. Solid-state batteries, on the other hand, tend to use more common and less toxic building blocks, such as sodium, which is abundant in saltwater and much less environmentally damaging to extract.

In addition, these new batteries offer much better performance such as faster charging – almost six times faster -, much longer life – five times longer -, reduced leakage rates – self-discharge -, and simplified mechanics will allow for better energy management, delivering better yields over a longer period of time with a higher power-to-weight ratio. Finally, the production cost will be lower than that of conventional lithium-ion batteries thanks to the use of cheaper materials, cost-effective processes and high energy density.

Source: Statista – Projection of global lithium demand from 2019 to 2030

The most influential players are turning to this new generation technology

We may not see these batteries in service before 2025, but we can imagine that the first generation could be made up of batteries made of graphite anodes, thus offering better energy performance and increased safety. Later, lighter and more compact batteries with a lithium metal anode could be marketed.

Many experts believe we are on the verge of mass adoption of electric vehicles worldwide. This is why the giants of the automotive sector are working on the development of this battery, which is more compact, more efficient, and with better storage. With this in mind, Toyota, one of the most active manufacturers in the field of semiconductor batteries, is working with Panasonic – already a partner of the American Tesla in a battery factory for electric vehicles in the state of Nevada. Their goal is to jointly develop and produce batteries for electric vehicles (EVs) with the aim of reducing costs through mass production and the development of new technologies. A market launch is planned for 2025.

Volkswagen is also working with QuantumScape, considered the most advanced company in the development of this technology. Volkswagen’s 50% partnership in financing a factory would give them a significant advantage over the competition in the race for electrification. Their goal is to reach established mass production by 2024.

At the same time, Stellantis entered into a partnership with Total. This renewal of the partnership for a period of five years on all of the brands of the PSA group allows companies to develop new areas in five different areas: R&D, original equipment lubricants, exclusive recommendation of Quartz lubricants in after-sales networks and brand maintenance, car racing, mobility and electric charging.

Ford and BMW have invested heavily in the start-up Solid Power. A $1.2 billion deal aims to generate $600 million in cash over the next few years. This partnership aims to give both manufacturers an advantage in the development and commercialization of solid-state batteries over their competitors. At the same time, Hyundai is responding with joint research with SolidEnergy Systems.

Also in the race, Tesla and Samsung, who are working independently on the development of these new batteries.

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