A team led by Yan Wang, a researcher from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), has achieved a significant breakthrough in the manufacturing of lithium-ion battery electrodes. The team developed a solvent-free process that offers several advantages over conventional methods, including being more environmentally friendly, cost-effective, and faster in charging. This advancement holds great potential for enhancing the production of batteries for electric vehicles.
In their publication in the journal Joule, the researchers detailed a dry-print manufacturing technique that eliminates the need for toxic solvents and the lengthy drying times typically associated with electrode production using slurries and traditional approaches.
Yan Wang, the WPI William B. Smith Dean's Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, explained that the new process can be scaled up and has the potential to reduce electrode manufacturing costs by up to 15 percent, while also enabling electrodes that charge faster compared to those produced using conventional methods.
Wang stated, “Current lithium-ion batteries charge too slowly, and manufacturers typically use flammable, toxic, and expensive solvents that increase the time and cost of production. Our solvent-free manufacturing process addresses those disadvantages by producing electrodes that charge to 78 percent of capacity in 20 minutes, all without the need for solvents, slurries, and long production times.”
Typically, commercial lithium-ion battery electrodes are created by mixing active materials, conductive additives, polymers, and organic solvents to form a slurry, which is then applied to a metal substrate, dried, and cut into battery-sized pieces. The solvents are subsequently recovered through distillation.
In contrast, the researchers' process involved blending electrically charged dry powders, which adhered to a metal substrate when sprayed. The dry-coated electrodes were then heated and compressed with rollers. By skipping the conventional drying and solvent-recovery stages, the team was able to reduce battery manufacturing energy consumption by an estimated 47 percent.
Yan Wang has been dedicated to improving lithium-ion batteries and minimizing their environmental impact for an extended period. He is a co-founder of Ascend Elements, a company focused on developing battery recycling technologies.
Overall, this innovative solvent-free manufacturing process for lithium-ion battery electrodes showcases the potential to revolutionize the industry, making it more sustainable, cost-efficient, and capable of producing batteries with improved charging capabilities.
Source: Worcester Polytechnic Institute