Economically Viable "Green" Carbon Anodes for Lithium-ion Batteries from Recycled Scrap Tires
Company Name: FWD:Energy, Inc.
Program Office: Advanced Manufacturing
Location: Zanesville, OH
Email: Richard Sloan, CEO, Board Member; Rich@fwdenergy.com
Award Amount: $250,000
Project Term: 12 months
Project Status: Active
Participating Lab(s): Oak Ridge National Laboratory / Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Lithium ion batteries are an increasingly critical component for transportation, energy, and the military. Lower cost, higher performance batteries would encourage more rapid and widespread adoption of electric vehicles, renewables, and distributed generation. Graphite-based anodes comprise roughly 15 percent of total cost, but little effort has been made to improve cost or performance. The mining and processing of virgin graphite for anode carbon is both energy and pollution intensive. An alternative source of high performance carbon would help manufacturers reduce cost as they look to produce more-efficient, more cost-competitive batteries.
FWD:Energy is an advanced manufacturer that uses a novel source of carbon – scrap tires. The company has developed a process that converts scrap tire rubber into a hard carbon substitute for graphite in lithium ion battery anodes. By relying on scrap tires as its feedstock, the company's material costs are less than two percent of what manufacturers would otherwise pay for processed graphite. The company estimates that this low-cost material can reduce the ultimate cost of anodes by upwards of 40 percent compared to mined and processed graphite. At the same time, the hard carbon can also produce a higher capacity battery.
PROJECT INNOVATION + ADVANTAGES
FWD:Energy's VersaWave™ system uses industrial microwaves and vibrating conveyors to process used tires. Anodes produced from this hard carbon result in cells with greater initial capacity and a more stable long-term cycle life, but impurities in the carbon also result in undesirable first-cycle loss. The company will work with scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory to optimize the performance of the material and facilitate the path to commercialization for the company's proprietary approach.
Reducing the cost of battery manufacturing creates opportunity for expanding domestic battery manufacturing, allowing U.S. companies to compete in the growing global battery market. Further, low cost batteries increase the viability of distributed generation, decreasing the urgency of expensive upgrades to the electric grid.
Recycling tires is considerably less polluting and energy intensive than mining and processing graphite. In particular, using recycled materials cuts carbon emissions associated with this aspect of battery production by roughly half. Additionally, converting scrap tires into battery carbon is more productive and radically less polluting than burning tires for energy recovery, the predominant management practice. Lowering battery cost also encourages adoption of electric vehicles, lowering transportation emissions. Finally, low cost batteries ease integration of renewables into the grid, further shifting power generation away from polluting fossil fuels.
Batteries are an increasingly critical component to the military, energy, and transportation sectors. American battery makers and domestic customers face supply risk from 100 percent foreign control of graphite (China alone exceeds 70 percent share). Additionally, less expensive batteries make electric vehicles more cost-competitive with their gasoline counterparts, speed adoption of electric cars and allow lower US fleet demand for oil. Further, more efficient, affordable batteries act as backup sources of power, improving grid reliability.
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