VARTA expanding R&D capabilities for next-gen batteries at its Austrian facility
German battery manufacturer VARTA AG has announced the expansion of 'VARTA Innovation', the company's battery R&D wing, which is establishing a modern research facility for battery technology at its facility located in Graz, Austria.
Scheduled for full operation by the second quarter of 2024, the facility will boast an increased number of international researchers by the end of this year, to work optimizing existing battery technologies for developing more efficient post-lithium technologies.
The research center will also focus on sustainability, reduction of energy consumption and the use of recycled materials in the production processes, claims VARTA.
"The expansion of our materials and basic research in Graz is a logical consequence. We want to consolidate our position as one of the technology and innovation leaders in the field of battery technology", commented Rainer Hald, CTO of VARTA AG.
"There are particularly promising developments in post-lithium technologies, for example in the increasingly important field of decentralized energy storage, which is based on inexpensive, sustainable and unproblematic materials such as sodium", he added.
However, there is still a great deal of potential in lithium-ion technology, which can be realised through targeted R&D, the CTO said. "Our technology hub in Graz is a key component of our future viability and allows us to quickly achieve reliable results in pre-development, which we can then quickly transfer to series production of innovative technologies".
Further, the research center is also envisioned as a development partner for companies from the automotive and non-automotive sectors. It is to be noted that VARTA Innovation was founded as a research spin-off of the battery company together with Graz University of Technology, one of the leading universities in the field of battery research in Europe.
VARTA Innovation's current focus is on the development of silicon-based electrodes. Stefan Koller, Managing Director and Head of Research at VARTA Innovation, said, "Silicon offers considerable development potential in the field of lithium-ion cells. It has three times the storage capacity for lithium ions than the graphite used today and is suitable for a wide variety of material combinations".
He further added, "We have already achieved our first major success here in Graz: The first generation of silicon-based electrodes in our small-format button cells can soon be transferred into mass production at VARTA AG's headquarters in Ellwangen."
To make energy storage technologies and production more sustainable overall, the team claims to be working intensively on research into the use of new materials, for instance, to reduce the use of cobalt or completely eliminate the use of this problematic raw material.
As a corollary, recycling is also of particular importance to VARTA Innovation. The company is working on returning production waste directly back to the manufacturing process without chemical treatment.
This strategy will be particularly crucial in the field of electromobility, and is in line with the aim of the 'EU Battery Passport' initiative that requires battery manufacturers to use recycled materials in future, VARTA opines.