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National Lab Opens Battery Manufacturing R&D Center

Chevrolet Volt and battery replica (Photo by John F. Martin for General Motors)

A Chevrolet Volt and replica of the t-shaped battery pack (Photo by John F. Martin for General Motors)

Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, part of U.S. Department of Energy, has opened a research and development center for battery manufacturing. The lab says the facility is designed for open collaboration among participating companies, although the lab did not disclose which companies are taking part.

The facility, which the lab says costs $3 million, is an open access battery manufacturing R&D facility that allows for collaboration with industry and other national labs, while protecting the intellectual property of industrial partners. According to the lab, companies taking part include battery manufacturers, chemical and materials suppliers, system integrators, and original equipment manufacturers.

One of the aims of the center is to “integrate advanced material components into a complete battery, analyze how it perform, and better understand how to improve it,” says Claus Daniel, deputy director of Oak Ridge’s programs on sustainable transportation. “With this capability, we can isolate and evaluate a material or process, and quantify any advantage that each would provide.”

The facility can make batteries with up to 7 ampere-hours capacity, that provides for demonstration capabilities. In addition to battery manufacturing equipment, the Oak Ridge center has two climate controlled rooms totaling 1,400 square feet for materials testing and manufacturing simulation. One room allows for mixing of various slurries, stabilization, coating and drying, which maintains relative humidity levels between 0.5 and 15 percent.

A second room maintains a dew point of minus-40 degrees Celsius, which is needed to prevent moisture from entering and degrading battery cells. Here, battery electrodes, cathodes, and anodes are assembled automatically into pouches that are filled with a precise amount of electrolyte. The pouches are then trimmed and sealed through a heating and vacuum process.

The facility, says Daniel, “allows collaborators to develop and optimize processes, manufacturing schemes, perform diagnostics and maximize yield.” The lab says it has contracts with with eight battery-related companies to help them compete in global markets.

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