Dr Daniela Fontana, R & D Manager, Lithops, Italy.
A New European Player Perspective on Li-ion Cell Production: The “E-Lithium” Project.
As important as they are, evolutionary technology improvements achieved through European R&D activities are not sufficient to drive EU competitiveness in the battery sector, without a stable and secure battery manufacturing base. The lack of a domestic cell manufacturing base makes the EU dependent on the supply of foreign battery technology, and, over time, the current EU capabilities in high-quality R&I at worldwide level will decline, compromising the ability for EU to compete for and catch the market of the next generation of batteries. Recently the European Commission expressed its intention to support industry-led initiatives to develop a full battery value chain in the EU. Within this context, Lithops (soon re-branded as FAAM Research Center, FRC) and its holding company FIB (owner of the FAAM brand) are developing a manufacturing plant for Li-ion cells and batteries (based in South Italy) for ESS and industrial traction markets. Lithops plans to exploit the know-how gained during several years of R&D activities within its pilot plant for the production of Li-ion pouch cells (based in Turin), covering from active material treatments to cell testing. Together with the Seri Group (of which Lithops is part) and FAAM, Lithops aims to set a vertically integrated production, from raw materials to second-life battery re-usage and material recycling. The manufacturing plant is designed to mainly produce (ramping up in Q2 2019) 40 Ah Li-ion pouch cells and complete battery systems for Energy Storage Systems (ESS) and industrial traction applications, with an initial capacity of about 200 MWh/y.
The Group has recently subscribed to an agreement with Jemse, the Argentinean mining company of Jujuy region. This partnership will grant strategic access to raw materials at competitive prices, enabling strong saving in the cell production costs, and access to the South American market. Great effort is made also on R&D activities, particularly on materials and recycling. The Group’s plan is to produce the cathodic active material (LFP), by exploiting a cost-competitive synthesis method. Moreover, working together with Politecnico di Torino, Lithops is developing solid-polymer-electrolyte membranes (replacing liquid electrolyte) with interesting performances, through a promising process that could be easily up-scaled in the production line. The Group also aims to exploit the know-how present in Seri on lead-acid battery recycle, to develop a mechanical-chemical process capable to recover almost 90% of the materials of Li-ion batteries.
ABOUT THE PRESENTER
Daniela Fontana serves as R&D Manager at Lithops. Her background includes a Masters Degree and a PhD in Chemical Engineering at Politecnico di Torino, with specialization in fluid dynamics. She has 15 years experience in R&D projects, developed also during her previous employments at Politecnico di Torino and in the R&D Department of Rockwood Italia S.p.A. During these years, she has dealt with: development and optimization of products and processes; scale-up of products and processes from lab or pilot level to industrial level; support in the design of new plants or in modifying existing ones (also through the use of CFD modelling). She has developed specific competences in the field of chemical synthesis (mainly, but not limited to, wet chemistry), in the design, start-up and management of chemical plants, in the application of computational fluid-dynamics to different sectors, in the processes of production of Li-ion electrodes, cells and batteries.
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