High purity alumina here to stay says Altech
With billions of dollars being ploughed into new lithium battery factories around the globe, Altech Chemicals says that its 4N high purity alumina product, or “HPA, will potentially be in even greater demand in the next generation of “solid-state” lithium-ion batteries. As the market looks to move away from the more risky “liquid electrolyte” batteries, Altech says its HPA will still be in demand and potentially in even greater quantities for the next generation of solid-state batteries.
Conventional lithium batteries consist of a liquid electrolyte that is used by the tiny ions within the battery to move between the anodes and the cathodes, separated by a ceramic or HPA coated polymer sheet.
However, the liquid electrolyte has its unique challenges – it is combustible, corrosive and has difficulty at ultra-high temperatures.
Solid-state state lithium batteries, largely considered to be the next generation of batteries that will ride the electric vehicle wave, have a “solid” electrolyte that is considered to be less susceptible to short-circuiting, operable at higher temperatures and is much safer.
As part of a recent internal research project, Altech studied some 100 research journal articles on next generation of solid state lithium batteries and came to the conclusion that polyethyleneoxide, or “PEO” solid-state electrolytes have been the most extensively studied.
PEO electrolytes are blends of a lithium salt and a high molecular weight polymer containing Li+- coordinating groups.
The problem with PEO solid-state electrolytes however, according to Altech’s research report is its low ion conductivity at lower temperatures due to the crystallisation of the polymer.
However, Altech said that the currently available research on next generational lithium batteries is that by adding 4N HPA to the polymer, the crystallisation temperature is lowered and the battery is then able to maintain its ion conductivity, even at lower temperatures.
The company also said that the addition of 4N HPA that Altech is looking to produce out of Malaysia could also increase mechanical strength; improve cycling performance in addition to reducing the crystallinity of the polymer host.
With its processing technology settled, Altech is now hurtling towards production in Malaysia and it has made large inroads into the plant construction whilst other players are still grappling with the rapidly developing technologies required to produce HPA.
Altech’s Malaysian plant will be fed with almost pure kaolin clays from its Meckering deposit in Western Australia where the company says it most likely has upwards of 230 years worth of supply.
HPA itself has a myriad of uses in high-tech applications such as LED lighting, in advanced mobile phones in addition to its use as a separator in lithium-ion batteries.
The emerging use of HPA in energy-dense solid-state batteries could be a serious driver of growth for Altech given the rapid adoption of electric and hybrid vehicles around the world as the green movement takes over the planet. The burgeoning mobile phone market that also soaks up HPA, is another market that seemingly has no bottom.
HPA looks like it is here to stay and with technology changing every few years in the rapidly advancing lithium-ion battery space, Altech followers will no doubt take some comfort in the Perth based company’s latest research that shows 4N HPA will not only be used in next generational solid-state batteries but potentially in even greater quantities than the current liquid electrolyte battery.
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