Silicon anode spinout targets batteries with 50 per cent more energy

October 11, 2016 // By Nick Flaherty
The silicon anode of the LeydenJar
A spinout from the Energy research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN) has developed a silicon anode technology that increases the storage capacity of rechargeable batteries by 50 per cent. The company is named after the earliest electrical energy storage jars.

The company, LeydenJar Technologies, is targeting electric vehicles (EVs), smartphones, laptops and other electronic devices, as well as grid storage.

 After a decade of research and a year of commercial development, the company is in discussions with large international battery manufacturers and wants to open a demonstration plant in 2018. Companies such as Nexeon and SiNode have also been developing silicon anode technology.

The new technology replaces the traditional graphite anode with a pure silicon anode, increasing the storage capacity of the anode in a lithium-ion battery by a factor of ten and the storage capacity of the whole battery up to 50 per cent. However, the silicon expands when the battery is charged and becomes three times larger, which can make the silicon layers brittle and cause the battery material to fall apart. ECN applies the silicon in columns onto copper foil using a plasma-etched chemical vapour deposition (PECVD), creating enough space for expansion and allowing the battery to remain stable. The layer eventually needs to be 10 microns thick for commercial application. ECN researcher Wim Soppe already discovered the material twelve years ago, when he was developing thin-film solar cells. “The material was unsuitable for solar cells, but we found that the technology is extremely promising for lithium-ion batteries. An nice example of how a failure can turn into a success,” he said.

“What makes the invention of ECN so promising is that the technology for mass production of this material is already within reach due to its similarity to an existing production process for solar cells,” said Sjoerd Wittkampf, Technology Transfer Manager at ECN. “We believe that this gives us a unique advantage. Through the founding of LeydenJar Technologies, we will transfer this technology to the market and create a fit between the battery industry and venture capital investors.”

The PECVD process can precisely manage the porosity of the structure, leading


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