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A talk with Professor Stefano Passerini (KIT-HIU) after the final GREENLION meeting and workshop

26/01/2016

The European project GREENLION “Advanced Manufacturing Processes for Low Cost Greener Li-ion Batteries” reached its end on 31st October 2015 with a successful completion of most if not all of its milestones. A few days earlier, the closing consortium meeting was hosted by IK4-CIDETEC, coordinator of the project, and a final event was organized under the heading “Towards Advanced, Green Batteries: Realities and Expectations” as an open industrial workshop. Professor Stefano Passerini (KIT-HIU), one of the promoters of the project and leading researcher in the field of innovative battery technologies, was invited to give a plenary talk where he shared his views for the future.

 

Taking advantage of this opportunity, we had the chance to have a relaxed talk with him to take stock of the project and discuss on his views in the field.

 

Question: What are the results you would highlight from GREENLION project? Which of the results would you expect to be more likely used/exploited in the near-term?

Stefano Passerini: One of the main results to highlight from GREENLION is the development and pilot plant demonstration of Li-ion electrode manufacturing using aqueous slurries, that is, eliminating the use of volatile organic compounds such as NMP (N-methyl pyrrolidone) as solvent, which allows cheaper and greener battery production. When the project was proposed and started 4 years ago, there was little work on aqueous electrode slurries which is especially challenging on the cathode side. GREENLION has set a trend on research and development of aqueous processing of Li-ion electrodes and demonstrated its feasibility in production.

Another point to remark is the achievements reached by the consortium working along the whole battery value chain, from the more basic materials research up to battery module engineering: more than 300 meter-length rolls of electrodes have been manufactured to assemble more than 150 cells and allowed the design and assembly of cheaper battery modules with easy assembly and disassembly and lower environmental footprint.

 

Q: What are the most promising research trends on near and mid-term advanced battery technologies for EV and large-scale stationary storage?

SP: Recently there has been a growing interest in the so called post-Lithium technologies, including Li-air and Li-S batteries, with a promise for very high energy storage capacities. The interest remains high in such technologies, but the development times are too long for the automotive industry. Therefore, the near and mid-term roadmaps of this sector are focused on advanced Li-ion technologies, more specifically towards new high capacity or high voltage electrode materials and the practical development of solid electrolytes, especially to enable the Li-air technology. As an example of alternative, innovative technology presented in the Workshop, Na-ion batteries may be a very cheap and competitive alternative to Li-ion, using the same electrochemical principles and manufacturing processes and thanks to the sodium abundance. Since the technology is at the materials research stage, there is still development and upscaling to be performed into the next decade to bring it to the market, mainly in large scale stationary energy storage due to their lower energy density. There are other exciting technologies in a long-term horizon such as semi-solid or fluid electrodes, combining redox flow-type battery concepts or using seawater as catholyte, which are yet to be proven in the lab.

 

Q: In your opinion, what is the present and future of the battery industry in Europe? How can we bring the developments from projects such as GREENLION to the industry?

SP: European industry seems to have abandoned the Li-ion large cell manufacturing activity for which some of the results in GREENLION have been developed. The automotive industry has focused on assembling battery packs from Asian Li-ion cells while the demand for Electric Vehicles is still low, after some failed joint-ventures in the last 4 years. We are now observing an European battery paradox: there is a strong scientific background on electrochemistry with a large and very active research and development network on batteries (universities, technology institutes and national research labs), battery materials producers (SMEs and large industrial chemical companies) and huge automotive and stationary end-user markets but there are very few companies with battery manufacturing capability, generating a gap in the value chain. Despite this, the outlook on other sides of the battery field is markedly positive: both European battery materials manufacturers and battery pack assemblers are increasing their capabilities and sales worldwide, thus generating a larger demand for innovative battery materials and engineering solutions, in which Europe has a strong scientific and technical background.

Hopefully, the growing demand of the stationary market for advanced batteries and the development of new battery chemistries will also bring back the industrial interest to produce advanced Li-ion and other new battery technologies in Europe. For this to be true, applied research projects such as GREENLION are crucial so that advanced knowledge on processing techniques for battery materials are developed and spread, ultimately for the benefit of the industry.

 

Q: And finally Stefano, how do you think we IK4-CIDETEC performed in the tough task of the technical and coordination work of such a large consortium involving 16 international partners? Any suggestions for improvement for next time?

SP: IK4-CIDETEC have contributed to the successful results of GREENLION in the role of coordinator, monitoring the progress, orienting and pushing the partners towards the project goals but also enabling the partners on their work within the project. I evaluate very positively the technical expertise of IK4-CIDETEC team on batteries and especially the level of involvement and additional effort and resources covered by IK4-CIDETEC when technical issues have arisen. I will maintain this collaboration and successful relationship through other EU projects and proposals.

      Q: Thank you very much Stefano for your kind attention and fruitful involvement in the project. Hope to       see you soon pursuing new challenges.

      SP: You are welcome, it was a real pleasure.

 

 

Stefano Passerini. Helmholtz Institute Ulm, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. Ulm, Germany

Prof. Passerini is working on the development of materials and systems for electrochemical energy storage for almost 30 years. His research focuses on the fundamental understanding and development of materials for lithium batteries, such as ionic liquids, polymer electrolytes, and electrode materials. He is co-author of over 300 peer-reviewed publications (H Index of 52), and several book chapters and patents.

 

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