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First published 20 September 2017

Key facts:

  • QUT has developed Australia’s first pilot facility to produce commercial grade lithium-ion batteries.
  • QUT has Australia’s only facility capable of such production with the nation’s only low humidity electro-manufacturing dry rooms.
  • QUT has developed processes to produce lithium-based powder to make extremely safe and efficient batteries.
  • The batteries produced are the same format as those used to power Tesla cars.
  • The facility can rapidly prototype new battery formulations and cell types.
  • These facilities can be used to help manufacturers kick-start an Australian battery manufacturing industry.

 

The facility is built within the university’s pilot plant precinct at Banyo on Brisbane’s northside.

Professor Peter Talbot from QUT’s Institute for Future Environments said the batteries were based on commercial battery formats comparable to those used to power Tesla vehicles.

“Importantly, as part of this project we identified the best lithium-based powders to use to create a battery of the highest energy-efficiency standards possible,” he said.

“The powder is a combination of lithium and other compounds. We tested various compositions of chemicals until we were satisfied that we had achieved the best powder possible.

“Our process enables us to rapidly test and prototype rechargeable lithium-ion batteries of various shapes and sizes.”

He said the research could be used to kick start a commercial lithium-ion battery manufacturing industry in Australia, with the batteries being one of the most popular types of rechargeable batteries used in portable electronics from mobile phones, to power tools and drones.

“This process could be automated to enable Australia to have a competitive advantage in a manufacturing space that is currently dominated by China.

“As the middle class in the ASEAN region grows, so too will the demand for lithium-ion battery operated goods.

 “As more and more vehicles in the future are manufactured to run on battery power, the development of longer-lasting batteries will be crucial to a vehicle’s overall efficiency and appeal to consumers.”

Lithium is mined in several countries including Australia and Professor Talbot said the facility could value-add to the mining industry as miners could have their materials validated at the plant.

Professor Talbot said the technology and processes developed at QUT as part of the project were suitable for use by any commercial battery manufacturing company.

He said now that QUT had developed the purpose-built facilities needed to produce the lithium-ion batteries the university could develop batteries for specific commercial applications.

“We will be able to purpose build the most efficient batteries possible to power any number of devices and products including some of QUT’s key robots.”

Infrastructure built at QUT’s Banyo facility to enable the project includes Australia’s only electro-manufacturing room with zero humidity.

The Australia-first battery is the outcome of a three-year $4 million project, funded by the Auto Cooperative Research Centre and conducted in conjunction with the Malaysia Automotive Institute.

“This research wouldn’t have been possible without the financial backing of the Australian and Malaysian governments and highlights the importance of international research partnerships in the efforts to solve global problems,” Professor Talbot said.

He said QUT’s Banyo Pilot Plant Precinct offered wide scale scope to test a large variety of engineering products and processes while the university’s Central Analytical Research Facility housed the instruments necessary to analyse the properties of materials.

Media contact: Rose Trapnell, QUT media team leader, 07 3138 2361, 0407585901, rose.trapnell@qut.edu.au or media@qut.edu.au.