• Coating technologies and processes
  • Drying and alternative heating technologies
  • Solventless processing
  • Computational manufacturing
  • Joining
  • Thermal runaway characterization
  • 65 m2 (700 ft2) dry space with less than 0.5% relative humidity
  • 65 m2 (700 ft2) space with adjustable 1–15% relative humidity
  • Coating and fabrication line
  • Reconfigurable modules for
    • Deposition
    • Drying and consolidation
    • Winding, folding, and stacking
    • Joining

Low-cost, high-yield coating technologies include high-performance vacuum processing, slot-die, tape casting, spray coating, and direct manufacturing techniques. Coating thicknesses produced can range from nanometers to many hundreds of micrometers with pilot-scale line speeds of up to tens of feet per minute. Configurations are in single-, multi- and simultaneously deposited multi-coatings.

Drying and heating technologies include evaporation of solvents, sintering, polymer curing, and bonding of coatings on diffusion layers of individual materials. Several systems with a variety of integrated layers are available consisting of typical battery drying temperatures between 100–150°C to sintering and heating treatments of up to 3,000°C. 

Advanced computational modeling enables rapid prototyping and screening of battery materials and configurations, accurate lifetime predictions, and development of best possible manufacturing parameters for battery manufacturing process steps.

Advanced joining technology R&D is focused on low thermal impact joining including ultrasonic joining techniques.

Thermal runaway characterization is supported by infrared imaging to better understand temperature distribution inside secondary lithium batteries.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers are working with the Department of Energy (DOE) and industry on new battery technologies for electric and hybrid electric vehicles that extend battery lifetime and range, reduce battery size, and increase cost savings and safety for America’s drivers. Scientists are concentrating their expertise in electrochemical engineering, materials characterization, materials processing, and materials and systems simulations to identify battery performance limitations and develop revolutionary technologies for next-generation batteries, as well as low-cost manufacturing processes.

Inner part of a battery showing cathode (black), anode (grey), and separator (white) layers

Using unique instruments and facilities, scientists are studying battery materials at the atomic level and in quantities up to 7 ampere-hour pouch cells. Researchers are exploring the use of advanced materials such as carbon, graphite, and carbon fiber composites to improve the thermal and electrical conductivity of battery materials. In situ microscopy, in situ fatigue testing, 3-D surface profiling, and mechanical testing capabilities enable in-depth investigation of new materials. Scientists also use advanced computational modeling to enable rapid prototyping and screening of battery materials and configurations as well as accurate lifetime predictions.

Researchers are using infrared imaging to better understand temperature distribution inside lithium batteries to prevent thermal runaway and increase user safety. Tribology is another area of focus, as scientists work to eliminate or mediate the effects of internal friction in batteries. Researchers are also developing low-cost high-yield coating technologies and advanced low thermal impact joining methods.

Energy storage research at ORNL is ultimately focused on gathering and applying new knowledge to develop industrially viable technologies for large-scale battery manufacturing.

BATTERY MANUFACTURING

Researcher Shrikant Nagpure works with specialized equipment in the Battery Manufacturing Facility to evaluate new cathode materials.

With increasing demand for low-cost batteries, the establishment of a domestic supply chain is a top priority. ORNL is giving US manufacturers a boost by operating the country’s largest open-access battery manufacturing research and development center. The DOE Battery Manufacturing R&D Facility (BMF) provides scientists the ability to analyze every aspect of battery production, from raw materials to finished product.

Open to any US battery manufacturer, material supplier, or battery user, the center offers the ability to integrate any component into a complete battery and analyze how well it works and how it can be improved. Users can “plug-and-play” individual processes and steps, and laboratory staff can provide help and guidance every step of the way. The idea is to showcase the user’s material or process improvements and quantify the advantage they provide.

Reflective of the interconnectivity between new technology market success and manufacturing efficiency, the BMF is uniquely a part of two ORNL programs at the National Transportation Research Center and the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility, with the former program focusing on energy storage technology R&D specifically for vehicle applications and the latter focusing on manufacturing technology R&D.

The BMF offers the ability to integrate any component into a complete battery and analyze how well it works and how it can be improved. The Facility can produce pouch cells of up to 66 × 99 × 12 mm and 7 ampere-hours, large enough to make market decisions yet small enough to affordably demonstrate the impact of innovative technologies.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory is managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy