• EIT RawMaterials to support establishment of industrial production of novel silicon-carbon composite as anode active material for Li-ion batteries
  • German research institutions Fraunhofer ISE, the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg and CENIDE of the University of Duisburg-Essen to contribute their research capacities to the project as development partners

Duisburg (Germany), December 22, 2022. Duisburg-based PCC Group copmpany PCC Thorion and its research partners, the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE, the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg and CENIDE of the University of Duisburg-Essen, have launched a research project to improve the efficiency of lithium-ion batteries. EU funding of 3.5 million euros has been earmarked for the undertaking. The aim is to scale up to full industrial production the innovative silicon-carbon composite developed by PCC Thorion and Fraunhofer ISE as the anode active material, and the performance-enhancing silicon nanoparticles required for this application.

As funding partner withing the KAVA 9 investment program, EIT RawMaterials – part of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology –  is supporting the project aligned to enhancing the performance of Li-ion batteries. PCC Thorion, Fraunhofer ISE, the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg and the Center for Nanointegration Duisburg-Essen (CENIDE) at the University of Duisburg-Essen have been co-opted as further partners in this collaborative project, with each committed to contributing their research capacities and pioneering expertise in the field of battery materials.

The silicon-carbon composite developed by PCC Thorion and Fraunhofer ISE serves as a particularly effective anode active material for Li-ion batteries, thus enhancing a key technology driving progress toward a climate-neutral economy. Silicon offers the advantage of a theoretical storage capacity around ten times higher than that of graphite, the anode material commonly used to date. The innovative composite therefore significantly increases the capacity of lithium-ion batteries, allowing for substantially longer life per charge and thus greater driving radii. It also offers shorter charging times, a key factor for the commercialization of electric cars and the like.

With this silicon-carbon composite, the project participants plan to provide the rapidly growing battery industry with a drop-in upgrade in the form of a material that can be easily integrated into existing manufacturing processes as a replacement for the graphite anode material used to date. In intensive cell tests, these collaboration partners have already been able to demonstrate extraordinary results with regard to achievable specific capacity and cycle stability, i.e. the longevity and robustness of the anode material in batteries. This is the prerequisite for scaling up the production process, and with funding from the EU, this is now set to go ahead.

Another advantage of the solution developed thus far by PCC Thorion and Fraunhofer ISE is the feedstock security that exists thanks to the key starting material silicon being manufactured by the PCC Group company PCC BakkiSilicon hf. in Iceland. Moreover, the PCC BakkiSilicon plant exclusively uses electricity from renewable, primarily geothermal sources for the highly energy-intensive production of silicon, thus significantly reducing the carbon footprint of the silicon-carbon battery component in question.

„The willingness of EIT RawMaterials to participate in the project underscores the validity of our approach to bringing to market a sustainably produced anode active material based on our silicon, a commodity we produce in Iceland using 100% renewable energy,“ explains Dr Peter Wenzel, CEO of PCC SE, the parent company of PCC Thorion GmbH, „and with existing production capacities already in place, we see ourselves as being well positioned to contribute to the future security of supply to the European battery industry.“

About PCC Thorion

PCC Thorion GmbH is a young, innovative company focused on the development and production of silicon-carbon composites and other silicon-metal-based materials for use in batteries. It is a subsidiary of PCC SE, headquartered in Duisburg, Germany, and thus part of the globally active PCC Group with its more than 3,300 employees. Our sister companies have core competencies in the production of chemical feedstocks and specialty chemicals, silicon and silicon derivatives, and in container logistics. There are close ties with PCC BakkiSilicon hf., which operates one of the world’s most advanced and climate-friendly silicon production facilities in Iceland, meaning Thorion is able to build a sustainable and secure production chain from raw material to end product.
For more information about PCC, please visit https://www.pcc-thorion.eu.

About Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE

The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE in Freiburg, Germany is the largest solar research institute in Europe. With a staff of about 1400, we are committed to promoting a sustainable, economic, secure and socially just energy supply system based on renewable energy sources. We contribute to this through our main research areas of energy provision, energy distribution, energy storage and energy utilization. Through outstanding research results, successful industrial projects, spin-off companies and global collaborations, we are shaping the sustainable transformation of the energy system. In the business areas of Photovoltaics, Energy Efficient Buildings, Solar Thermal Power Plants and Industrial Processes, Hydrogen Technologies and Electrical Energy Storage as well as Power Electronics, Grids and Smart Systems, the Institute develops materials, components, systems and processes. For this purpose, we have an excellent laboratory infrastructure at our disposal. In addition, we perform analyses, carry out studies, provide consultations and offer our clients testing and certification procedures. Fraunhofer ISE is certified according to the quality management standard DIN EN ISO 9001:2015.

About the University of Freiburg

Founded in 1457, the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg is one of Germany’s oldest universities and is now one of the country’s leading research and teaching institutions (https://uni-freiburg.de/en/). The university strives to define new areas of investigation and to pioneer leading-edge research and development. It actively promotes international interaction and exchange, with its central location in Europe and its proximity to Switzerland and France further supporting its international credentials. In a European Commission ranking based on overall impact on scientific research in the field of natural sciences, the University of Freiburg was placed 6th in Europe and 2nd in Germany. It cooperates closely with external research institutions based in Freiburg. These include five Fraunhofer Institutes, including the above-mentioned Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE. A key institution linking these various collaborations is the Freiburg Materials Research Centre FMF (https://www.fmf.uni-freiburg.de/en), the battery materials laboratory of which will be supporting this EU-backed project under the coordinating management of the Krossing Group (https://www.krossing-group.de/research/batteries/).

About the Center for Nanointegration Duisburg-Essen CENIDE

CENIDE is a central scientific institution representing the key faculty focus „Nanosciences“ of the University of Duisburg-Essen. With over 85 working groups from the natural and engineering sciences as well as medicine, CENIDE is one of the largest research centers for the nanosciences in Europe. CENIDE integrates basic research and the manufacture and processing of functional nanomaterials through to industrial scale-up, collaborating in these areas with international academic partners as well as various companies that are active in relevant fields of endeavor. The unique nanoenergy research building NanoEnergieTechnikZentrum (NETZ) is part of CENIDE and has, among other things, facilities for the production of nanomaterials from the gas phase, and their further processing, as well as the high-tech microscopy facility ICAN (Interdisciplinary Center for Analytics on the Nanoscale).