Altech Chemicals’ research in Germany on high purity alumina used in lithium-ion batteries shows that only the pinnacle quality of HPA is safe and efficient. The research underscores Altech’s high quality “4N” HPA product and makes stark comparison to lower quality products sometimes used that were shown to leach sodium from the batteries and cause discharge problems.
Altech Chemicals has successfully completed research in Dresden, Germany, for high purity alumina battery applications at the internationally renowned Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems.
The work shines a new light on the dangers of using sub-optimal HPA products in lithium-ion batteries which can lead to “sodium leaching” discharge problems and even safety and fire concerns.
Altech says the research work demonstrates the superiority of its 99.99 per cent pure alumina, or “4N HPA” for use in lithium-ion batteries.
The Perth-based, ASX-listed company says that some battery manufacturers that are using lower quality HPA as a separator between the battery cathodes and anodes may be labouring under the false impression that this safe and efficient. Altech says however that its research represents new work and new thinking for the industry which should set off alarm bells for those manufacturers that are using the cheaper 3N product in particular.
The research shows the leaching is considered to be the cause of ‘thermal runaway’, resulting in a reduction in the life cycle of the battery, along with reduced efficiency.
Altech said the tests show that its 4N HPA product that it is looking to produce in Malaysia, is critical for the safety and performance of lithium-ion battery separators given its ability to minimising the leaching of the sodium.
According to the company, alumina powder is commonly applied to the separator sheet between the cathode and anode to maintain separator integrity at ever-increasing operating temperatures of modern, high-energy lithium-ion batteries.
The internationally renowned Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft research organisation’s brief was to specifically assessing the contamination that impurities from lower quality alumina, sub “4N”, may have had on the battery electrolyte.
Altech Managing Director, Iggy Tan said: “The ramifications from these research findings for the portion of the lithium-ion battery industry that is transitioning – or is contemplating transitioning – to cheaper alumina substitutes for separator coatings, are set to be profound.”
Altech says its research shows that “dendrite” growth resulting from the leaching is a fire risk as the microscopic, needle-like growths can, if unchecked, pierce the battery separator and lead to a fire or even an explosion.
Up until now, Altech says the lithium-ion battery industry has incorrectly assumed that the sodium impurities from lower grade alumina products were ‘crystal-bound and did not leach out. However, Altech now says it has proof that the industry assumption around this issue is incorrect.
Mr Tan said: “It is hard to comprehend why lithium-ion battery manufacturers would transition to a lower quality alumina – when this material is introducing sodium into the battery electrolyte and as a result jeopardising battery safety and performance. The extra cost of a high purity alumina coating versus the lower grade material is minimal, likely less than US$ 1 per kWh battery capacity or US$ 100 for a typical EV. A small cost impact on the end product to ensure the highest level of battery safety and quality.”
“It is potentially catastrophic that many in the industry appear to be attempting to move to lower quality material as a battery separator coating. A minimum quality standard for all alumina used as coating material on battery separator sheets should be adopted by industry.”
In a world that is rapidly trying to get a handle on the manufacturing of lithium-ion batteries that are still a relatively new product, it is quite possible that Altech’s research might be news to some battery manufacturers.
At the very least is will give the Perth based company bragging rights in any off-take negotiations that it enters into for its product when it gets its HPA plant up and running in Malaysia.
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