Rapid advancements in lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery technology throughout the last decade have proved massively beneficial for related industries, namely electric vehicles (EV) and energy storage.
The market strength of these industries is closely related to the power and durability of Li-ion batteries, as higher performance batteries incentivize the use of EVs and the production of renewable energy. As a result of this close industry connection, the impacts of innovation in Li-ion battery technology are amplified significantly.
This is why two recent breakthroughs, one developed by Tesla and one by HPQ Silicon (a nano silicon material company based in Canada), are so significant.
The first exciting breakthrough has Tesla, in collaboration with Dalhousie University, working on innovating improvements to the number of charging cycles Li-ion batteries can perform. The partnership recently completed a model test that achieved an impressive increase in charging cycle capacity.
The typical life cycle of Li-ion batteries ranges anywhere from 500-1500 cycle charges, averaging around 1000.
Demonstrating its knack for technological innovation and shattering expectations, Tesla has successfully developed battery prototypes that perform up to 4000 cycle charges. Quadrupling the existing, standard Li-ion charging cycle capacity would translate into a massive increase in the longevity of Li-ion batteries.
As mentioned earlier, this development in Li-ion battery technology would bleed into related markets.
The second exciting breakthrough in Li-ion battery technology features collaborative work between HPQ Silicon and Professor Lionel ROUÉ of the Institut National de Recherche Scientifique (INRS).
Professor Lionel ROUÉ has developed a scientific program focused on the study of new electrode materials for various applications of industrial interest (batteries, aluminum production, etc.). In recent years, a significant part of his research activities has been devoted to the study of Si anodes for Li-ion batteries and the development of in-situ characterization methods applied to batteries. He is the author of more than 150 publications, including twenty articles and 2 patents on Si-based anodes for Li-ion batteries. He was awarded the Energia Prize by the Quebec Association for the Mastery of Energy for his work in this field.
Within the scope of projects under this collaboration with Professor Lionel ROUÉ, is evaluating the electrochemical performances of different materials produced by the HPQ PUREVAP™ Quartz Reduction Reactor (“QRR”) for Li-ion batteries.
In addition to working with Prof ROUÉ HPQ is working with PyroGenesis Canada Inc. (TSX-V: PYR) to develop The PUREVAP™ Silicon Nano Reactor (SiNR), a new proprietary process that can use different purities of silicon (Si) as feedstock, to make spherical silicon nanopowders and nanowires needed by manufacturers of next-generation lithium-ion batteries and HPQ is working with Apollon Solar of France to use their patented process and develop a capability to produce commercially porous silicon (Si) wafers and porous silicon (Si) powders for all-solid-state batteries and porous silicon powders for Li-ion batteries.
Research suggests that replacing graphite materials with Silicon anodes in Li-ion Batteries promises an almost tenfold (10x) increase in the specific capacity of the anode, inducing a 20-40% gain in the energy density of Li-ion batteries.
Increasing energy density by such a drastic amount could potentially double EV distances between charges, without compromising the weight of the vehicle.
Silicon is a light-weight mineral and is often used as a replacement for steel in cars as a way of reducing vehicle weight and gas dependency. Battery storage as an industry would also see market conditions improve significantly as a result of this innovation.
Renewable energy generation often relies on battery storage due to the on/off nature of renewable energy production. Improving the efficiency of Li-ion battery technology would drastically lower the price to store excess renewable energy, further increasing its viability.
Technological advancements in Li-ion battery storage are uniquely impactful for green industry, as they simultaneously boost the market strength of EVs and the energy storage industry.
The described innovations demonstrated by Tesla and HPQ, as well as their respective academic partners, offer a glimpse as to what the future will hold.
Massively increased Li-ion battery power, efficiency, and longevity will produce a myriad of benefits for economies that opt to take advantage of it, especially in the age of global electrification. These advancements continue to show the remarkable strength and versatility of silicon as a manufacturing material and indicate that a technological energy storage revolution is very much underway.