Blackstone Battery Technology:

a EUR 200 million project

 

Blackstone Resources has ambitious targets for the electric vehicle market. Europe's innovative strength, excellent infrastructure and a strong sustainable energy policy from Germany, represent excellent foundations for Blackstone creation of a modern and competitive battery production facility that benefits from low carbon emissions. It’s a project that will enable Blackstone Resources AG to establish a significant battery production presence in Germany.

Blackstone Resources AG ultimate aims to become a vertically integrated developer and producer of battery metals and lithium-ion batteries, which will be used in electric vehicles, plus industrial applications. The company already has a portfolio of battery-metal mining and refining investment in Canada (cobalt), Chile (lithium), Colombia (manganese) and Indonesia (nickel).

At the start of 2019, Blackstone Resources AG announced a EUR 200 million investment project to build a battery research and production facility in Germany. As a consequence, a new company called Blackstone Research GmbH was founded in Erfurt, Thüringen, Germany where research activities have already commenced. Cooperation agreements have also been established with leading universities and institutes that specialise in battery research.

The market for lithium-ion batteries continues to grow strongly. It’s strongly influenced by a worldwide trend to reduce carbon emissions and the rising adoption of electric vehicles. These two trends continue unabated and are both starting to pick up momentum.

Figure 1: Source Fraunhofer Institute

 

The company’s expansion into battery technology will create a significant competitive advantage for the firm. It will also soften the impact on revenues from fluctuating battery metal prices as the price of lithium-ion batteries remain relatively constant.

The aim is to use new, disruptive technologies to produce the next generation of batteries for electric vehicles and industrial applications. It will aim for an annual production capacity of 3 GWh of battery cells by 2025. This corresponds to the equivalent of powering 75,000 forklift trucks or electric vehicles that have a battery capacity of 40 kWh. If this target is reached, production will be gradually be increased to 10 GWh per annum.

Research objectives

The development of new-tech lithium-ion battery cells along with their production technology will initially focus on the industrial market. If this technology proves itself here, it will be rolled out to the mass market, which include the automobile industry. Overall, there is potential to find a solution that will serve the entire battery market.

Based on our unique and patented 3D-printing process, we have the capability to manufacture solid-state batteries. This technology offers more than double the energy density and halve current manufacturing costs associated with current lithium-ion batteries. Automated 3D-printing production can also save up to 70% of conventional capital expenditure, compared to current production equipment. The flexibility of a 3D-printing system also significantly increases manufacturing efficiency.

The advantages of using 3D-printing battery manufacturing process are:

  • Lower material consumption as thinner layers are possible.
  • Double the energy density at the same volume or the same energy density at half the cost.
  • Less complexity compared to traditional battery manufacturing.
  • The possibility to print batteries in any shape with a single 3D-system (almost any geometry is possible).
  • The possibility to integrate additives into the printing process and the ability to print thin electrical arresters or embedded electronic components into the batteries.
  • The option to combine 3D and inkjet printing e.g. this includes liquid electrolytes.

Figure 2: Example of a 3D printing system

 

Blackstone has joined forces with strategic partners as part of its research programme. The research programme has four phases:

  • Phase I: A technological proof of concept
  • Phase II: A performance track record
  • Phase III: The solid-state electrolyte (solid-state battery)
  • Phase IV: A -printable stacks concept

Production of solid-state batteries

The advantages using solid-state batteries are well known and can be summarised as follows:

  • Up to six times faster charging time
  • 2-10 times higher energy density
  • A longer service life
  • The avoidance of flammable, dangerous or toxic substances

 

Figure 3: Source: Fraunhofer Institute

 

It is still difficult to manufacture this technology in large quantities because of a lack of production techniques and the ongoing development of solid-state electrolytes. With the introduction of 3D-printing technology, Blackstone will create a significant foundation for this technology to take off. Part of its research and development programme is dedicated to optimising the efficiency of its production lines.

Figure 4: Source: 2019 by ECS -- The Electrochemical Society

 

Summary

Blackstone Resources AG is convinced that it can produce reliable lithium-ion batteries with higher energy density levels, in large quantities and at lower costs. The goal is to bring costs well below EUR 80.00 per kWh. This would represent the final breakthrough in storage technology. 

 

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