Scientists Just Manufactured Australia's First Lithium-Ion Battery

Image: Anthony Weate

Thanks to QUT, Australia's first facility to produce commercial grade lithium-ion batteries is up and running.

It is the only place in the country capable of making the batteries - which are in the same format as those used to power Tesla cars - because of it's low humidity electro-manufacturing dry rooms.

"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," said Professor Peter Talbot from QUT's Institute for Future Environments.

"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." Professor Talbot says.

According to Professor Talbot, 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. QUT 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.