Sekisui Chemical has developed a material that can triple the capacity of lithium ion batteries, allowing electric vehicles to travel about 600km on a single charge -- roughly as far as gasoline-powered cars can go without refilling.
The new material stores electricity using silicon instead of conventional carbon-based materials. The company's silicon alloy overcomes the durability issue that had kept silicon from being used.
Sekisui Chemical also developed a new material for the electrolyte, which conducts electricity within the batteries. This eliminates the need for equipment to inject liquid electrolyte into batteries, stepping up battery production by 10-fold.
The company believes that the new material can bring battery production costs down to just above 30,000 yen ($290) per kilowatt-hour, a decrease of more than 60 percent from around 100,000 yen ($976) today, according to a report in Nikkei.
Lithium-ion batteries are a type of non-aqueous electrolyte rechargeable battery where the lithium-ion inside the electrolytes supplies the electrical conductivity. Standard models have lithium metal oxides at the positive electrode and a carbon material such as graphite at the negative electrode, and usually use electrolytic solution.
Using electrolytic solution is a barrier to ensuring the safety of the lithium-ion battery, and many research institutes are seeking to solidify the electrolytic solution, but from the perspective of performance and productivity, electrolytic solution remains the standard substance.
Sekisui Chemical, through its determined focus on using gel for electrolytes, has recently utilized new organic polymer electrolyte materials as gel-type electrolytes with high ion conductivity (approx. ten times other Sekisui Chemical products) to gain the prospect of realizing high-speed continuous production for battery cells (approx. ten times compared to other Sekisui Chemical products) and enhanced safety by using a continuous coating process rather than a vacuum infusion process. In addition, it has developed high-capacity silicon negative-electrode materials to make optimum use of this performance, realizing a high-capacity battery cell (900Wh/L).
The development of high-capacity film-type lithium-ion batteries giving practical performance while being flexible, slim, long and covering a large area has massively improved freedom in designing the shape of the final products, leading to anticipation for their use in automobiles, houses, electrical appliances and so on while gaining unprecedented lightness, space-saving (a third the size of previous products) and enhancing design through being able to be installed in any shape of form
Sekisui Chemical plans to begin sample shipments to domestic and overseas battery manufacturers as early as next summer, with mass production to kick off in 2015. It is targeting annual sales of 20 billion yen by fully entering the business of automotive battery materials.