Nano layer with Megapower – Flexible Ceramic Separator creates Breakthrough in Large Lithium-Ion Energy Stores

(f.l.t.r.) Prof. Dr.-Ing. Paul Roth, Dr. rer. nat. Gerhard Hörpel, Dr.-Ing. Andreas Gutsch

Dr.-Ing. Andreas Gutsch (Spokesperson)
Dr. rer. nat. Gerhard Hörpel
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Paul Roth

Evonik Industries AG, Essen
Universität Duisburg-Essen, Duisburg

Whether hybrid cars, wind power stations, or solar power plants – many environmentally friendly technologies need stores for vast amounts of electric energy.
How do batteries have to be designed to meet this requirement reliably and safely?

An answer has been provided by Andreas Gutsch, Gerhard Hörpel, and Paul Roth with their invention of a new type of separating layer. Andreas Gutsch, who managed the Creavis Technologies and Innovation division at Evonik Industries AG, is assigned by Evonik as designated Managing Director and responsible for the development of series production at Li-Tec Battery GmbH & CO KG in Kamenz near Dresden. Gerhard Hörpel is responsible for International Relations Management/Marketing at the company’s Marl offices. Paul Roth is a professor emeritus at the Chair for Combustion and Gasdynamics at the University of Duisburg-Essen.

Compact and versatile energy provider
The core of the innovation by the three nominated researchers is a separator for lithium-ion batteries. These rechargeable batteries are used in portable electronic devices such as mobile phones, notebooks, and digital cameras. They are also used to provide electric power in many battery-powered DIY power tools. Their advantages are high chemical performance as well as a compact design and comparably simple production. The separator prevents the battery from short-circuiting by separating the positive from the negative terminal, and it guarantees flow during discharging or recharging.

However: in applications in which very high-capacity energy stores are needed, lithium-ion batteries have not been able to be used. There is so much energy concentrated inside the large-scale energy store that they can explode if damaged. Andreas Gutsch, Gerhard Hörpel, and Paul Roth have succeeded in eliminating this safety hazard.

Nanoparticulates strengthen the separating layer
The team of researchers succeeded in developing a separator consisting of minute nanoparticles of a ceramic material. This makes it porous and at the same time malleable. It is very robust and remains stable even at high temperatures. Batteries equipped with the separator can easily be used as a source of energy for motors in hybrid vehicles or electric cars. They can also be used to store electric current generated by wind turbines or solar power plants or safeguard the power supply for supercomputers and production plants.

The new technology is the result of cooperation between researchers at Evonik AG who worked with Andreas Gutsch and Gerhard Hörpel as well as research scientists at several universities. The starting point was a ceramic filter membrane developed by Paul Roth. The first batteries to incorporate nanoceramic separators are already in use.

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