24/03/2021 - 15:33

Altech kick-starts PFS for German battery plant

24/03/2021 - 15:33

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ASX-listed Altech Chemicals’ 75 per cent-owned subsidiary, Altech Industries Germany has kicked off a pre-feasibility study for a 10,000 tonne per annum high purity alumina battery materials coating plant in Saxony, Germany. The PFS will integrate Altech’s “nano-layer” HPA coating technology with HPA produced at the company’s plant in Malaysia which will be fed from Altech’s kaolin deposit near Meckering in Western Australia.

ASX-listed Altech Chemicals’ 75 per cent-owned subsidiary, Altech Industries Germany has kicked off a pre-feasibility study for a 10,000 tonne per annum high purity alumina battery materials coating plant in Saxony, Germany.  The PFS will integrate Altech’s “nano-layer” HPA coating technology with HPA produced at the company’s plant in Malaysia which will be fed from Altech’s kaolin deposit near Meckering in Western Australia.

The latest business development step for Altech comes on the back of a code-cracking ‘breakthrough’ development for the company that saw the high purity alumina developer work out how to coat both silicon and graphite particles with a microscopic nano-layer of HPA.

Interestingly, Altech Chemicals’ success in developing a HPA coating for silicon particles used in lithium-ion batteries may well give it a leg up on its potential competitors as EV companies like Tesla look to replace graphite battery anodes with silicon as the preferred material.

Altech has also worked out how to use its technology to coat particles in graphite-based anodes.

The company said it has crunched some numbers around the region’s planned lithium-ion battery plants and their respective output to determine the size of the plant being considered in its PFS.

Management says it is banking on only half of the talked-about plants eventuating and its own proposed coating plant would look to supply just 4 per cent of the overall forecast European market for anode graphite – a market expected to be around 500,000tpa by 2025.

Last year Germany unveiled a €130 billion Coronavirus economic stimulus package which Altech says includes support for the electric vehicle industry, one of the chief sources of predicted growing demand for lithium-ion batteries.  Spain is also following Germany’s lead in creating an investment framework for a sustainable EV battery supply chain.

Altech said the proposed site for its PFS plant, in Saxony’s Schwarze Pumpe Industrial Park, would have sufficient space to place a silicon coating plant, or a duplicate graphite coating plant depending on future market demand.

The plant will use 100 per cent renewable energy according to Altech, largely from the local grid with some on-site top-up.  The company will target a green project status from a recognised accreditation authority such as the Centre of International Climate and Environmental Research in Norway.

Altech’s battery material coating plant PFS will also consider options for supply of the HPA precursor product from an alternate source, retaining some degree of independence in plant construction timing until its own plant in Johor, Malaysia is fully operational.

Only last year, the company 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. 

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 are enhanced by the addition of a nanolayer coating of Altech’s HPA to the graphite particles within a battery anode, the industry is already looking beyond graphite to silicon particles.

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.

Altech says the issue with using silicon has always been its ability 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.  However Altech says it has cracked that code by encapsulating the silicon particles in a nanolayer of HPA.

The Perth-based company appears to be setting itself up as a vertically integrated HPA player from Kaolin mined in WA, through to HPA production in Malaysia and HPA-coated battery anode materials delivered right into the heart of a lithium-ion battery market in Europe.

 

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

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