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17-04-2019 | Materials Technology | News | Article

Thuringian research prize for ceramic battery

Leyla Buchholz

Renewable energy sources are becoming increasingly important in the context of the turnaround in energy policy. Energy must be reliably stored so that electricity can flow even when the wind turbine stands still and the sun is not shining. A research team from the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS developed an inexpensive and environmentally friendly ceramic battery for this purpose, which was awarded this year's Thuringian Research Prize in the "Applied Research" category.

The Fraunhofer researchers have succeeded in developing a ceramic battery that is made entirely from non-critical domestic raw materials such as common salt, aluminum oxide and nickel. This makes it inexpensive and low-maintenance. In addition, the sodium-nickel-chloride battery has a high systemic efficiency, is durable and so safe that it can be installed in residential buildings without hesitation. "In the context of the turnaround in energy policy, which calls for storage options for alternative energy sources, the ceramic battery is a serious alternative to the lithium-ion battery," says Prof. Michael Stelter, head of the research team and deputy director of the Fraunhofer IKTS. In contrast to the well-known lithium-ion battery with liquid core, the heart of the ceramic battery is a one-sided closed tube made of a sodium ion conductive ceramic - the solid state electrolyte.

Through development work and optimization of the cell design, the IKTS scientists were able to increase the battery's storage capacity to 100 ampere hours. This is almost three times as much as compared to the batteries of this type currently available on the market. This provides sufficient storage capacity to reliably absorb, for example, the excess energy produced by the solar system of a single-family house on a sunny day. 

For the high relevance of the project in the context of the "energy turnaround", Thuringia's Minister for Science, Wolfgang Tiefensee, presented the research team with the 12,500 Euro prize at a ceremony in the Imaginata Jena.

The enormous market potential of the ceramic IKTS battery has already been recognized: The high-tech group Alumina Systems GmbH has purchased the technology. Over the next few years, the know-how of the Hermsdorf researchers will be used to create a pilot production line and introduce the ceramic battery into the market.

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