A California Startup Says 3D Printing Batteries Could Double Capacity – Singularity Hub | CarTailz

Solid-state batteries could be more energy-dense, safer, and faster to charge than today’s technology, but finding a way to make them commercially viable is a challenge. A company thinks 3D printing is the answer.

In recent years, the lithium-ion batteries that power everything from smartphones to electric vehicles have seen tremendous improvements in their safety and energy density (a measure of how much energy they pack per pound). But progress is slowing, and it seems likely that if we are to relegate the gas-powered car to the history books, we will need to move to novel battery designs.

Solid-state batteries, which replace the liquid electrolyte in today’s cells with a solid one, are among the most promising candidates in the short term. Not only would they make batteries safer by removing the flammable liquid electrolyte, but they could also increase energy density and allow for faster charging.

A number of start-ups have developed promising prototypes, but work on the manufacture of such batteries at scAle is a big challenge. CaliforniaRnia-based startup Sakuú sees the answer in using 3D printing, which would allow them to use space much more efficiently and therefore produce batteries with much higher capacity than the competition.

Batteries are made up of three key components: a positive electrode called the anode, a negative electrode called the cathode, and an electrolyte that allows ions to travel between the two. In today’s most advanced lithium-ion batteries, the electrodes are manufactured in a production process known as “roll-to-roll” manufacturing.

The materials used to make each of the electrodes are mixed into a slurry and then coated onto a long roll of metal foil before being dried. These long rolls are then cut into smaller sections and stacked on top of each other with a separator between each electrode. These stacks are placed in a case that is then filled with liquid electrolyte.

Even newer solid-state battery manufacturers are proposing to use the same production process, but Sakuú takes a completely different approach. It has created a 10 meter multi-material printer that can work with both ceramics and metals. The machine first lays down samples of powdered material before applying a jet of polymer binder that bonds the material together particles together. Then deposit its Conductive metal on top. These layers are stacked on top of each other Miscellaneous to produce cells.

The enterprise said The edge that the approach allows more layers to be stacked in a given space than conventional approaches. On his websitesakuú claims this is because its manufacturing process allows for thinner structural layers and a novel stacking structure. That means they can either offer 100 percent more capacity than current lithium-ion cells or make batteries 50 percent smaller and 40 percent lighter.

Another attractive benefit of 3D printing is that it should be possible to build batteries in all sorts of shapes, which is difficult with traditional roll-to-roll manufacturing. This could allow batteries to be built into the structure of products rather than allocating space for them.

That is somethinghas become at a main focus for the EV industry as companies seek to increase battery capacity in their vehicles without adding additional weight. Chinese battery maker Contemporary Amperex Technology and electric vehicle Leapmotor are working on ways to build batteries into the chassis of cars, while Tesla says it has developed a new adhesive that makes its batteries resilient and allows them to be used as structural parts.

The ability to 3D print batteries in a variety of shapes could accelerate this trend, but it will likely be some time before Sakuú’s batteries come to market. While it said The edge that each of its printers will eventually be able to produce about 40 megawatt hours of energy storage – the equivalent of 500 electric car batteries – so far it only has a prototype of its machine and has not yet been used to manufacture batteries.

However, if they manage to get their printers up and running, it could give the effort a big boost increase the range and reliability of electric vehicles and push them further into the mainstream.

Photo credit: Saku

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