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RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT Laser improves battery charging capability

Editor: Florian Richert

The two research teams from the LaserApplicationCenter and the Materials Research Institute Aalen are working on the question of how they can improve the fast-charging capability of lithium-ion batteries - for example, to reduce annoying waiting times at charging stations for electric cars.

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The IMFAA and LAZ team works in the new research building at Aalen University.
The IMFAA and LAZ team works in the new research building at Aalen University.
(Source: Hochschule Aalen)

The project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economics (BMWi) with around one million euros. Among other things, they are relying on a laser-based process, that has already been filed for patent.

„A battery should be as small as possible and still be able to store as much energy as possible“, explain Max-Jonathan Kleefoot and Jens Sandherr. The two doctoral students at LAZ and IMFAA at Aalen University have been jointly researching this topic since the start of the „structur.e“ project in 2019. If the electrodes inside a battery are pressed together and compressed, more electrical energy fits in - to put it simply: „But then you're already faced with the next challenge: Although the battery now contains more energy in a smaller volume, it is more difficult to recharge.“

PhD student Max-Jonathan Kleefoot has co-developed a laser process at Aalen University that can be used to pack more energy into a battery.
PhD student Max-Jonathan Kleefoot has co-developed a laser process at Aalen University that can be used to pack more energy into a battery.
(Source: Jan Walford)

Project coordinator is VW AG

The automotive industry in particular needs traction batteries for the growing electromobility market that can absorb as much energy as possible in as short a time as possible. So how do you get more energy into such a battery in an even shorter time? This is the question that Aalen University is working on as part of the „structur.e“ research project with nine other cooperation partners - such as the German Aerospace Center (DLR), the Center for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research (ZSW) and TRUMPF Laser GmbH. Project coordinator of the project, which is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economics (BMWi), is VW AG.

Promising results after laser processing of the electrodes

Kleefoot and Sandherr conducted a whole series of experiments in search of the answer: „We used a laser to roughen and perforate the surfaces of the electrodes inside the batteries to improve the exchange of lithium ions between the electrodes during charging and discharging“, Kleefoot explains. Studies on fast-charging capability indicate that batteries processed in this way can be charged noticeably faster.

Prof. Dr. Volker Knoblauch is the project manager for „structur.e.“ and a member of the institute management of IMFAA at Aalen University. Photo: Thomas Klink
Prof. Dr. Volker Knoblauch is the project manager for „structur.e.“ and a member of the institute management of IMFAA at Aalen University. Photo: Thomas Klink
(Source: Thomas Klink)

„The results are extremely promising“, Prof. Dr. Volker Knoblauch also summarizes positively. He is the project manager and a member of the institute management of IMFAA at Aalen University. Another positive side effect of laser processing of the battery electrodes is the time saved in subsequent process steps in cell production, says Knoblauch. However, the researchers do not want to say more about this yet - these results are too fresh. In the further course of the project, the results obtained so far mainly on laboratory cells will now be transferred to larger cells, thus taking the next steps towards a possible industrialization of the process. A patent application has already been filed for the laser-based process.

Participating research institutions

The Materials Research Institute Aalen (IMFAA) is specialized on the processing, characterization and testing of materials and components. The focus is on advanced materials and components for resource-efficient mobility, renewable energies, additive manufacturing, and machine learning in microscopy and component testing. The LaserApplicationCenter (LAZ) works on research topics related to laser process technology in the fields of lightweight construction, electrical energy storage (battery technology), electromobility, additive manufacturing, and surface functionalization. Both institutes are located in the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Technology at Aalen University and cooperate for example in the BMBF-funded SmartPro cooperation network.

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