Albemarle Opens Battery Materials Innovation Center

July 9, 2021
State-of-the-art battery technology lab joins lithium R&D center at Kings Mountain, North Carolina site.

Albemarle announces the opening of a Battery Materials Innovation Center (BMIC) located at its Kings Mountain, North Carolina site. The BMIC is expected to be fully operational in July 2021 and will support Albemarle's lithium hydroxide, lithium carbonate and advanced energy storage materials growth platforms. It is equipped to enable synthesis of new materials, material properties characterization and analysis, material scale-up capabilities and material integration into battery cells for performance testing, according to the company.

The facility includes a dry room with a multi-layer pouch cell line that can create cell-phone sized batteries to demonstrate critical aspects of battery performance and accelerate transition of new products to customers. The lab will also develop lithium metal anode technologies that will increase battery energy density by utilizing advanced lithium metal rolling to achieve lithium foils 20 microns thin – about one-fifth the average thickness of a human hair – or thinner, according to the company. The company reportedly plans to demonstrate lithium foils as thin as 3 to 5 microns using new technologies currently being developed.

"The completion of the Battery Materials Innovation Center provides us with realistic and relevant cell building capabilities to generate meaningful data for next-gen battery material design," says Dr. Glen Merfeld, Albemarle lithium chief technology officer. "With this new resource, we will be equipped to optimize our lithium materials for a drop-in solution for customers that help them deliver high-performing cost-effective batteries for the rapidly growing electric vehicle market."

Albemarle says it is currently the only U.S.-based producer of lithium metal anodes. In a June 14 roundtable discussion hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy, Merfeld stressed that advancements in lithium recovery and battery performance are critical to maximizing the energy yield of every gram of active lithium material. Moving from conventional graphite battery anodes to lithium metal reportedly offers the potential to double energy density and reduce cost by as much as 50%. Innovations that leapfrog current technologies and encourage step changes in disruptive cathode and next-generation anode manufacturing will make the future of high-capacity lithium-ion batteries possible, according to the company.

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