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The inventor of the lithium-ion battery predicted that solid-state batteries would become commercially available by the mid-2020s. This battery type promises a marked improvement in safety, power, and environmental impact compared to current battery packs. However, recent breakthroughs in the lab don’t automatically translate into mass production. The complex processing requires specially-designed manufacturing technology to make solid-state batteries a real solution.

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Distill lithium deposits under a vacuum to purify the metal

Lithium metal is the bedrock material of solid-state batteries. It is the lightest alkali metal and has the highest storage capacity. But lithium minerals are notoriously rare. Instead, the material is drawn from underground thermal waters and saline lakes.

The traditional extraction method concentrates the material together with other metal salts by evaporating the water from the natural brine. Treat the deposits to an ion exchange process that applies chelating resins that attract undesired metals. The remaining lithium metal is finally purified using vacuum distillation at around 550°C.

Increase energy density by compacting lithium into thin sheets

One of the innovations in solid-state battery design is stacking lithium strips around 20 microns wide. Lithium in batteries interacts with the electrolyte material forming a film (solid electrolyte interphase) that conduces ions but insulates electrons.

This technique lends batteries a longer lifecycle than a thicker slab of lithium metal. Pass the material through a roller compactor to reduce the thickness and form ultra-fine lithium sheets.

Exposure to moisture is a threat to solid-state battery manufacturing

A significant part of the research effort goes into developing electrolyte chemistries. Sulfide-type solid electrolytes gained much popularity thanks to their mechanical reliability in transferring ions between cathode and anode.

But sulfides are prone to disintegration when they come into contact with moisture, making them challenging materials to handle. Monitor water levels throughout the production prosses using specialized moisture determination technology for solid-sate battery manufacturing.

Grind materials to increase their density and restrain void space

The solid layers between electrodes and electrolytes limit dendrite formation, one of the greatest disadvantages of lithium-ion batteries with a separator. But void space between the materials risks the growth of lithium filaments that cause short circuits in the battery system.

Filament growth occurs particularly in nigh-porosity substances. To prevent this, increase the density of materials by milling them into ultra-fine particles.

Deionize water for pre-extrusion slurry

One of the advantages of solid-state batteries over lithium-ion ones is that solid polymers allow high physical flexibility. Polymers can be manufactured into different form factors that suit the final battery design.

A prominent processing technique is to mix the polymer material into a high-viscosity slurry and then extrude it into the desired shape. But failing to purify the water in the mix risks destabilizing the material’s conductivity. Use a deionized water system to purify the solution before turning it into a paste.

Incorporate ceramics to manufacture hybrid electrolyte material

The earliest electrolyte materials comprised solid polymers, but these have low ionic conductivity. Inorganic materials overcome this drawback; however, roll-to-roll manufacturing methods undermine their mechanical strength.

Novel materials combine inorganic substances with polymers to develop high-voltage tolerance. These inorganic polymer hybrid electrolytes (IPHE) score high on ion conductivity without giving up processability. An added advantage of IPHEs that incorporate ceramic as an inorganic material is that they can be designed for recyclability.

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