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Elkem establishes Vianode, a new subsidiary for advanced battery materials

Vianode industrial pilot battery materials Kristiansand, Norway (Source: Elkem)

Elkem has successfully commissioned its industrial pilot for battery materials in Kristiansand, Norway, starting industrial-scale pilot production for customers. As the next step towards large-scale production, Elkem is now establishing Vianode as a new company and brand dedicated to develop and produce sustainable and high-quality active anode materials to meet the needs of the exponentially growing electric vehicles marketplace.

Vianode has been established as a fully-owned subsidiary of Elkem and Elkem's existing activities in advanced battery materials will become part of the new company. Elkem is currently inviting external industrial and financial partners to participate. Vianode is continuing its active recruitment for key positions, including the organization for the planned facility at Herøya Industrial Park.

"The production of battery materials represents one of our biggest growth opportunities. By commissioning the industrial pilot, we have taken a significant step in preparing our products for customers. By establishing Vianode as a dedicated company for advanced battery materials, we ensure full focus on developing this business and progressing the large-scale battery plant towards a planned final investment decision in 2021", says CEO of Elkem, Michael Koenig.

Moving towards industrial-scale production in Norway

Vianode's industrial pilot in Kristiansand, Norway, has already started qualification processes with several battery cell producers.

"The opening of the industrial pilot is an important milestone towards industrial-scale production of sustainable battery materials in Norway and the Western world. We expect considerable synergies from the production and research environment in Kristiansand related to today's and tomorrow's battery applications. The experiences from operating the industrial pilot will be a key input in the work of building the large-scale plant for battery materials at Herøya Industrial Park, the first step in building a leading global advanced battery materials producer", says Chris York, Vice President at Vianode.

Reducing CO2 emissions by more than 90 percent

Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries typically consist of four main components: An anode, a cathode, an electrolyte, and a separator.

"Today, anode materials are one of the largest greenhouse gas emission contributors in battery cell production. Vianode intends to reduce emissions from this part of the battery materials value chain by more than 90 percent compared to conventional production", says Stian Madshus, Vice President and General Manager Europe at Vianode.

Good progress for Vianode

Vianode is currently in dialogue with several battery cell manufacturers globally and entered into a memorandum of understanding related to the supply of battery materials with FREYR in October 2020.

A positive investment decision for a large-scale battery materials plant in Norway requires competitive public support mechanisms and supportive government policies. Vianode has already received NOK 10 million in financial support from Enova, the Norwegian government body to contribute to the low emission society, to fund the initial planning of the potential large-scale battery materials plant in Norway. Additional applications will be submitted to Enova over the coming months in relation to the large-scale plant.

Vianode has also previously received grants from Innovation Norway related to the pilot plant, and is on the shortlist for support from EU's Innovation Fund with preliminary scores in the upper tier in relation to "degree of innovation", "project maturity" and "relative GHG emissions".

Vianode is continuing to carry out advanced research on silicon-graphite composite materials for improved battery performance for the years to come. The company is participating in the Hydra and 3beLiEVe research projects on next-generation lithium-ion batteries, coordinated by SINTEF and the Austrian Institute of Technology, respectively. Both projects have received funding from the EU Horizon programme. Vianode is also investing in R&D on the recycling of battery-grade graphite which is supported by the Norwegian Research Council.

Author : Moulin Oza
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