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Lithium Metal Anode Batteries Are Rising

Lithium metal anode technology appears to be on a faster track for commercial deployment than ceramic SSB alternatives.

Sam Jaffe, Senior Director of Business Development

June 13, 2024

4 Min Read
Addionics battery
ADDIONICS

In the ever-evolving landscape of energy storage, the race for more efficient and powerful battery technologies is on. One of the rising key players in this category is the lithium metal anode. Known for its high energy density and innovative use of various electrolytes, the lithium metal anode stands out as a transformative force in the transition towards advanced energy storage solutions. From ceramic solid-state batteries to “Almost Solid State Batteries” (ASSB) that include a small amount of liquid electrolyte, lithium metal anode batteries, could become the next “it” solid-state battery?

Solid-state batteries

Solid-state batteries have long been hailed as the future of energy storage due to their potential to address the challenges present in conventional lithium-ion batteries. Indeed, solid-state batteries are safer and have a higher energy density, a longer lifespan, and take up less space. This type of battery can also handle temperature extremes better, both in cold and hot situations.

However, solid-state batteries tend to incorporate ceramic materials as an electrolyte/separator, and those ceramics can be a challenge to produce cost effectively on a large scale. Indeed, the intricacies of manufacturing ceramic electrolytes have required additional engineering that has slowed down their commercialization and reduced their adoption into everyday applications. Moreover, while these electrolytes reduce the risks of fire events that can happen with liquid electrolytes, they limit ion migration due to a rigid skeleton structure. On the other hand, some ceramics facilitate effective ion mobility, leading to elevated ionic conductivity comparable to that of liquid electrolytes, but usually also require extra force to be pressed onto the face of the electrode.

Lithium metal anode breakthrough

With limitations holding back solid-state batteries, improvements in lithium metal are constantly being researched. A new breakthrough in this technology that would enable further development is the lithium metal anode. Unlike conventional lithium-ion batteries with graphite anodes, lithium metal anodes plate directly onto the current collector during charge, and therefore  promise significantly higher energy density. Meanwhile, other forms of electrolyte are now being proposed that not only enhance the overall safety of the battery but also address some of the manufacturing challenges faced by ceramic-based solid-state batteries. Consequently, the integration of sulfide and polymer electrolytes into solid-state batteries has the potential to revolutionize energy storage solutions by providing improved efficiency and reliability. 

Lithium metal anode could surpass ceramic solid-state batteries

Commercial Viability

Sulfide and polymer electrolytes promise to be significantly cheaper to produce than ceramic-based solid-state batteries. Indeed, the gel allows for easier application, improving scalability and translating to lower manufacturing costs. As a result, this leads to lithium metal anode solid-state batteries being more commercially viable by facilitating the integration of lithium metal anode solid-state batteries into various applications, including electric vehicles. This versatility positions these batteries as a promising and adaptable solution in the dynamic landscape of energy storage technologies.

Technological advancements and implementation

Ongoing research and development in lithium metal anode technology is rapidly overcoming the hurdles that previously held back its commercialization. Industry leaders are investing heavily in refining and scaling up production processes, signaling a growing confidence in the feasibility of lithium metal anode solid-state batteries. Researchers have already discovered new techniques to increase capacity and boost performance, and additional advancements have seen up to 50% higher energy density which ultimately leads to more affordable EVs. This is already becoming an attractive offer, as US maker of EV batteries, SES AI, is beginning to work with major companies including Hyundai, GM, and Honda.

Compared to the ceramic alternatives, the lithium metal anode technology appears to be on a faster track for commercial deployment. Consequently, manufacturers are actively pursuing partnerships and collaborations to accelerate the development and deployment of lithium metal anode solid-state batteries. As QuantumScape focuses on transforming energy storage with solid-state lithium-metal batteries, their partnership with Volkswagen seeks to implement this technology into EV batteries.

An attractive offering

As the race towards full electricity continues, battery manufacturers and producers are looking for attractive and powerful solutions to get the most out of their returns. Especially for an industry like automotive, where EV makers need to scale and bring to market high-quality vehicles fast, options like lithium metal batteries are becoming more and more attractive. With more research, development, and key partnerships – advancements in this sector will only continue to increase leading to high-quality and cost-effective batteries at the most opportune time.

About the Author(s)

Sam Jaffe

Senior Director of Business Development, Addionics

Sam Jaffe is senior director of business development for Addionics. He has been in the lithium ion battery industry for the last two decades, most of that time as an analyst and consultant at companies ranging from IDC Energy Insights to Navigant. He founded Cairn ERA, a battery market research firm, in 2015 and sold it to E Source in 2021. He lives in Boulder, CO, USA.

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