Blackstone announces plans for 3D printed sodium-ion batteries

Swiss commodities company Blackstone Resources has announced that its German battery division Blackstone Technology could begin bringing 3D-printed sodium-ion batteries to market from 2025.

To this end, Blackstone Technology will lead a German industry and research consortium to take the previously validated laboratory results of 3D-printed solid-state batteries “to the stage of demonstration in a real-world environment” within the next three years, according to Blackstone. The results of the development project will form the basis for the subsequent implementation to market maturity.

To implement this, 32 million euros are being invested in a pilot plant at the production site in Saxony and in extensive developments. In Döbeln, Blackstone had started the series production of 3D-printed, lithium-ion battery cells in December 2021.

Furthermore, the upscaling of sodium-based solid-state electrolytes on a tonne scale is being developed in order to be able to produce them in the Blackstone Group from 2025, according to the Swiss company. This project is being funded by the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection as part of the Battery Cell Manufacturing Ecosystem funding of up to €24.1 million in total.

The sodium-ion cells from the project are to be installed in an electric bus of the Berlin company Eurabus “in order to demonstrate their performance in realistic test series in a valid manner”. Blackstone does not yet provide further details on the practical test and the battery pack installed.

“Sodium-ion technology represents the next generation of our already market-leading 3D printed batteries,” said Holger Gritzka, CEO of Blackstone Technology GmbH. “We are pleased to once again make an innovative and viable contribution to clean energy and the carbon-neutral transportation of the future.”

In the transition to sodium-ion cells instead of lithium-ion, Blackstone sees the company’s proprietary 3D printing process as playing “a critical role”, saying the process allows for “volumetric optimisation in addition to geometric customisation”. “We can seamlessly transfer our current experience in printing lithium-ion battery electrodes to the production of sodium-ion cells. This lays the foundation for the subsequent series production of solid-state sodium-ion batteries in 2025,” says Gritzka. The declared goal is to print complete solid-state battery cells at high speed and thus achieve unprecedented flexibility in shape and performance with one and the same machine park.

Among the established cell manufacturers, Chinese industry giant CATL had unveiled its first-generation sodium-ion battery in July 2021, which is scheduled for production from 2023. While Blackstone has not yet given any information on the energy density of its sodium-ion cells, the CATL cell is roughly on par with an LFP cell, according to the known data. However, CATL plans to mix sodium-ion and lithium-ion cells in the battery pack for initial deployments.

With reporting by Sebastian Schaal, Germany.


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