Powder processing in battery production

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Powder processing in battery production

As the world increasingly shifts toward renewable energy, batteries have become an essential part of energy storage. However, the production of high-quality batteries requires a complex process that involves several stages of production, including bulk material processing. Powder processing plays a crucial role in battery production because it involves the transportation, storage and processing of powder materials used in battery electrodes. 

Processing also requires a delicate balance between ensuring their purity, preventing (cross) contamination and maintaining optimal conditions for their physical and chemical properties. Moreover, the trend toward electric mobility and energy storage is driving demand for lithium and other raw materials such as cobalt, nickel and manganese, particularly in battery production. In the demanding production chain of batteries, the supply of raw materials is the first but important step for the quality of the final product. 

Again, powder handling plays an important role in battery life and performance. In addition to explosive protection measures, containment aspects must also be considered.

Battery mass production

Plant Partner realizes and provides state-of-the-art discharge, transport and metering technologies for the production of various battery components. Central is the continuous and accurate supply of raw materials for the production of cathodes and anodes. The protection of the users and the product is central. Our customer is a well-known battery manufacturer in Germany. The installed combination system consists of an anode and cathode line. Both lines consist of two separate and independent subsystems. Essentially the same process is carried out in each subsystem, starting at the feed stations. In the system, powder components are fed, transported and dosed into a customer-supplied mixing vessel. The powder is then used in subsequent process steps to produce electrode paste for lithium-ion battery electrodes. A total of two mixing stations with corresponding product feed were supplied. 

Functional Description.

The main components for anode and cathode materials are loaded in dust-free big bag unloading stations. Big bag emptying stations essentially consist of four components: a connection system as the core component for safe unloading, a support table for securing suspended loads, a frame for mounting the connection system and a lifting device. The big bag unloading stations implemented at the customer's site are additionally equipped with a lump breaker, which removes agglomerates and lumps before they are transported and dosed. 

 

First, the big bag is connected to the endless liner connection system for closed product handling. This system is characterized by a defined, safe processing process with a logical sequence of operations in a few steps, allowing powders to be processed easily, ergonomically and safely. Even during the changing of big bags, the system remains closed to the environment, so that no product dust can get out. As a result, the required OEB-4 level for NMC products can be met. 

The materials required for battery production, such as soot and graphite, are relatively non-critical to the operator and are typically processed without OEB level specifications. However, the endless liner connection system for OEB Level 4 was used for emptying these products, mainly for the sake of environmental cleanliness and to avoid possible cross-contamination.

 

Small quantities of these materials are delivered in bags of various sizes and are emptied dust-free. The bags are fed through a feed and seal system into a discharge station with a glove box. The bags are then opened and emptied through glove ports. The empty bags are discharged through a side entrance to a liner. 

A ball valve suction shoe with an agitator below the glovebox conveys the product to the pneumatic conveying system, ensuring consistent bulk material quality and particle size distribution. 

In the next step, a vacuum conveyor (PCC) transports the powder to the dosing station. The ProClean Conveyor PCC is a highly efficient, highly flexible pneumatic conveyor designed for long conveying distances and the safe transport of explosive or toxic materials. A separate conveyor system is used for each product. The conveyors also serve as storage vessels from which dosing is done into the customer's mixing vessel. The required accuracy was easily achieved (primary weighing, withdrawal weighing).

 

If multiple materials are transported in a mixing vessel, this is done sequentially according to a predefined recipe. Up to three different solids can be transported in the mobile mixing vessel. The number of products and transport devices can be expanded if necessary. After each individual dosing, the dosing result is checked in the mixing vessel using check weighing. The mixing vessel is located in an extraction booth and is closed with a pneumatically operated lid. The lid is equipped with connections for components and ventilation. 

Then, in the customer's mixer, the so-called electrode paste is produced by adding liquid. In the further process, this paste is applied to a metal substrate, dried and cut. Separation films of porous plastics are applied between the two electrodes to prevent short circuits. In the final step, the electrodes and separators are stacked in layers on top of each other and placed in an enclosure filled with an electrolyte that transports ions between the electrodes. Finally, the casing is sealed to prevent electrolyte leakage.

 

 

Recycling process

Not only is battery manufacturing a complex process, but recycling is also an important aspect in reducing the environmental impact of hazardous chemicals. However, there are several challenges that complicate battery recycling. For example, soot is both a useful and potentially hazardous substance when inhaled. The fine particles can enter the lungs and cause respiratory problems. Therefore, safety precautions must be taken when using carbon black. 

carbon black can be obtained from spent batteries through a recycling process called pyrolysis. Pyrolysis is the thermal decomposition of organic materials in an oxygen-free environment. In the case of batteries, they are first mechanically crushed and disassembled into their individual components. The battery parts are then heated in an oven under oxygen-free conditions. The heat breaks down the organic materials in the battery, resulting in a mixture of liquid and gaseous components and soot. The resulting mixture is then processed in several steps to separate and purify the soot from other components. The recovered carbon black can be used in other applications, such as rubber and plastic production, or reused in battery production. Recycling also recovers other materials, such as lithium, cobalt, nickel and carrier films made of copper or aluminum. To safely fill these products and prepare them for transportation in the final step, Plant Partner offers several containment transport and/or filling stations. 

More information:

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Visit the website of the BeNeLux agent https://plantpartner.nl/ for more information, projects and services.  For more information or a demonstration send an e-mail to [email protected] or call us at 085-0600 670.