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Europe: The lithium battery as a source of hope

Whether energy supply or electromobility – batteries are a key component. At Hannover Messe from April 23-27, researchers will present lithium batteries with improved properties: they‘re quick-charging, pliable, pressure-resistant or optimally cooled.

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The future belongs to electric vehicles – the experts are convinced of this. But there are a few challenges to overcome before quietly whirring electric cars can completely replace the combustion engine. One such challenge is the power supply: batteries have to be safe, reliable and reasonably priced. Promising developments in this area include lithium cells, which offer the highest energy density. These batteries are not just used in electric cars, though – they‘re also in demand for the storage of wind and solar energy, for medical examinations or to propel deep-sea vehicles. Fraunhofer researchers will be on hand to demonstrate lithium batteries for a variety of applications at Hannover Messe (Hall 13, Stand C10).

Quick charging and discharging
If the wind is blowing or the sun is shining, renewable energy sources often deliver more power than consumers need – so a way has to be found to store surplus energy. While lithium-ion batteries can store lots of energy, they also take a long time to charge. Supercapacitors, on the other hand, can quickly store energy, but their energy density is low. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC in the Center for Applied Electrochemistry in Würzburg are now working on developing a battery that combines the benefits of lithium-ion batteries and supercapacitors. Depending on the requirements involved, the scientists intend to produce energy-storage media that they can set either to the high energy density of a battery or to the high output density of a supercapacitor. For example: lithium-ion batteries that charge many times faster than conventional batteries.

Long service life through optimal cooling
Even just a few degrees‘ temperature difference can make a huge difference; this law also applies to lithium batteries. Adding ten degrees Celsius cuts the energy-storage medium‘s life in half. So an ingenious cooling system is indispensable. For electric-car applications, researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE in Freiburg have developed a well-cooled battery system: the system consists of twelve flat lithium cells with a fluid-fed cooling plate on each side of each lithium cell. To get peak performance from the cooling plates, the researchers have simulated their form and tailored it to the geometry of the individual battery cells.

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