Plans to produce high performance and low-cost lithium-ion batteries in Australia have won federal government support, as part of a broader effort to bolster the nation’s energy storage manufacturing capabilities.
The three-year, $9.4 million project, which will be led by one-time Technology Company of the Year winner Calix, will receive $3.5 million in funding over three years from the federal government’s Cooperative Research Centre Projects (CRC-P) program.
Calix will collaborate on the project with Boron Molecular and Deakin University’s Institute for Frontier Materials (IFM) and BatTRI-Hub – a Victorian research and innovation centre focused on advanced battery prototyping and the commercialisation of energy storage technologies.
According to a media statement on Monday, the team will explore the use of CalixFlash Calcination (CFC) technology to produce customised micron sized nano-electroactive materials for intercalation-based anodes and cathodes.
Put another way, the aim is to develop high performance, low-cost, fast charge-discharge lithium-ion hybrid batteries based on nano-active electrode materials manufactured by Calix
This would be integrated with optimised ionic electrolytes, developed with Boron Molecular and Deakin, to make up to 10kWh battery pack prototypes at the Bat-TRI-Hub.
These battery packs would then be tested in the field, including with small solar PV systems and in a microgrid setting, as part of a project currently under development at Deakin’s Waurn Ponds campus.
IFM Deputy Director Professor Maria Forsyth who leads the IFM team that includes Professor Patrick Howlett and Dr Robert Kerr said energy storage was a growing area of research, but the challenge was to develop manufacturing capability in Australia.
“There is a global search for safe, low cost, high capacity, high performing batteries given the demand for high performance energy storage and electric vehicles,” Professor Forsyth said.
“The challenge for Australia is to develop a sustainable battery manufacturing industry that has global reach through process innovation.”
To this end, the project will also develop a roadmap to set out commercialisation pathways and a blueprint for an advanced manufacturing hub of nano-active materials, electrolytes and packing technologies, including engagement with minerals providers to account for raw materials requirements.
Professor Howlett said this would be the first time this type of research had been undertaken in Australia for batteries.
“We will be using high rate processing technology with Australian materials, he said. “These materials will also have capacity to go into high performance supercapacitors which store charge like a battery and can dispense that charge very quickly.”
As noted above, Calix has been a company to watch in the clean-tech sector for some years now, winning the Australian Technologies Competition in 2015 for a plant spray that replaced toxic pesticides and enhanced productivity.
More recently, it has been developing and proving Direct Separation Capture technology for the cement and lime industries, and opened a Low Emissions Intensity Lime and Cement (LEILAC) plant in early May.
But the company has also been working on materials for batteries, and – after listing on the ASX in July – has reported some “very promising” results in that area.
“Calix is uniquely placed to accelerate the development and commercialisation of high-performance electrochemical energy storage devices,” said the company’s head of battery and catalyst R&D program, Dr Matt Boot-Handford.
“We have a patented and proven approach to making highly porous ‘nano-active’ materials for both anodes and cathodes, a commercial-scale production reactor, short-term projects in place through the CRC-P to demonstrate batteries using our materials, and long-term national and global linkages to expertise in batteries through StorEnergy and Polystorage,” he said.