Albemarle certainly isn’t a household name, but it’s a major US-based producer of chemicals, particularly those used in the production of lithium batteries. Lithium batteries are key to all manner of electronic devices and are particularly critical for electric vehicles. The company has announced that it opened a Battery Materials Innovation Center (BMIC) and its Kings Mountain, North Carolina site.
The BMIC will be fully operational in July 2021 and will support the company’s lithium hydroxide, lithium carbonate, and advanced energy storage materials platforms. The facility is designed to enable the synthesis of new materials, material property characterization, and analysis. It also supports material scale-up capabilities and material integration into battery cells for performance testing.
The facility has a dry room with a multi-layer pouch cell line that can create cell phone-sized batteries to demonstrate critical aspects of performance and accelerate the transition of new products to customers. BMIC will also develop lithium metal anode technology to increase battery energy density using advanced lithium metal ruling to achieve lithium foils 20 microns thick. Twenty microns is about one-fifth the average thickness of a human hair.
The facility will demonstrate lithium foils even thinner with a thickness of 3 to 5 microns using new technologies currently under development. Albemarle says that its BMIC provides realistic and relevant cell building capability to generate data for next-generation battery material design. The company will leverage the resources to optimize the materials for creating a drop-in solution for customers to help deliver high-performance and cost-effective batteries to the electric vehicle market.
Albemarle is the only US-based producer of lithium metal anodes. The company says novel materials developed in its labs will enable the next frontier of lithium-ion battery performance. Moving from conventional graphite battery anodes to lithium metal offers the potential to double energy density and reduce cost by as much as 50 percent.