15/03/2021 - 18:04

Altech cracks silicon code for lithium-ion battery tech

15/03/2021 - 18:04

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ASX-listed high purity alumina developer, Altech Chemicals has succeeded in developing a ‘breakthrough’ alumina coating of silicon particles used in lithium-ion batteries. The company says the new process could lead to significantly improved energy density, battery life and a reduced first cycle lithium loss. Interestingly, mega battery and electric vehicle maker, Tesla, recently said its aim was to increase the content of silicon in its batteries.

ASX-listed high purity alumina developer, Altech Chemicals has succeeded in developing a ‘breakthrough’ alumina coating of silicon particles used in lithium-ion batteries. The company says the new process could lead to significantly improved energy density, battery life and a reduced first cycle lithium loss. Interestingly, mega battery and electric vehicle maker, Tesla recently said its aim was to increase the content of silicon in its batteries as a potential alternative to graphite which it says has inferior qualities to silicon when used in battery anodes.

Last December Altech announced its success in developing an “alumna nanolayer coating” for graphite particles traditionally used in the anodes of lithium-ion batteries and the company has moved quickly to keep up with the market by also developing similar technology for silicon particles which Tesla says is the way of the future.

The company said it had demonstrated significant benefits in energy density, battery life and safe battery use after its HPA coating tech was applied to graphite particles used in the anodes of lithium-ion batteries.  Yet at the time, Altech noted what the industry calls “first cycle capacity loss” in its tests, a phenomenon that plagues rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that are made using graphite.

Whilst all areas of lithium-ion battery performance were enhanced by the addition of a nanolayer coating of Altech’s HPA to the graphite particles within a battery anode, the holy grail appears to be replacing the graphite with silicon particles, then coating the silicon with the company’s alumina.

The company said silicon has a significant advantage over graphite as the primary material for lithium-ion battery anodes as silicon has ten times the theoretical energy capacity when compared to graphite.

The trick with silicon is to overcome the 300 per cent expansion in particle size when energised for the first time, leading to what insiders refer to as ‘first cycle lithium loss’ or more simply, a loss in future energy capacity, according to Altech.

Those same industry insiders believe the ‘game changer’ is the encapsulation of silicon particles in a nanolayer of HPA to resolve the issues around first cycle lithium loss, on top of an already increasing battery density and life span.

To test its fine particle alumina technology, Altech accessed silicon samples from its collaboration partner, Silico Ferrosolar, a subsidiary of the Ferroglobe group.

Interestingly, Ferroglobe PLC is a London-based and Nasdaq-listed silicon-based metals and alloys supplier with a market cap of US$617m.

Whilst the industry has so far struggled with first cycle lithium loss, Altech says it is well placed to address that issue with its new technology.

Altech’s General Manager of Operations and Chief Scientist, Dr Jingyuan Liu said: “We are very encouraged by the excellent coating results achieved from the application of our technology, it has the potential to significantly increase the use of silicon in lithium-ion battery anode and consequently the potential to increase battery energy density, overall performance and longevity. The next

Altech’s share price took a 16 per cent leap in intraday trading today as the market started to consume the possibilities of the company’s technology in a world that is feverish with lithium-ion battery chatter.

 

Is your ASX-listed company doing something interesting? Contact: matt.birney@businessnews.com.au

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