Home advantage for battery technology
As one of the federal states at the forefront of the energy transition, Schleswig-Holstein is now boosting its credentials as a research hub and production centre for innovative batteries. The various stakeholders are determined not to let other regions steal a march on Germany's True North when it comes to developing key technologies for electromobility and stationary storage.
Intelligent grid and storage technologies are the key to ensuring a reliable supply of renewable energy from wind power and photovoltaics. In Schleswig-Holstein, more electricity is produced from these sustainable sources than is consumed - the perfect prerequisite for developing powerful batteries to store green electricity in the future. This in turn should prove beneficial in terms of new electric cars with longer ranges and faster charging options, as well as advanced stationary power storage systems.
Schleswig-Holstein is already home to many briliant minds in the field of research and development - scientists at universities and research institutions such as the Fraunhofer Institute ISIT in Itzehoe are hard at work on groundbreaking solutions. And technology leaders like Customcells in Itzehoe and UniverCell in Flintbek are already producing high-performance battery systems.
Indeed, this wealth of expertise in battery technology prompted the state of Schleswig-Holstein to apply for the large-scale nationwide project "Forschungsfertigung Batteriezelle" (battery cell production research), which was coordinated by the Fraunhofer Insitute for Silicon Technology (ISIT) in Itzehoe. Although Münster was awarded the contract in 2019, the application process nevertheless had a positive outcome and provided an innovation boost for Germany's True North - by efficiently pooling its competencies in the field of energy storage technologies, the state government has now created an excellent framework for the expansion of local research and development activities.
ISIT in the premieur league of research centres
With its 160 employees, the Fraunhofer ISIT in Itzehoe is considered one of Europe's most advanced research institutions for microelectronics, microsystems technology and battery technology. At the heart of the institute are clean-room facilities so expansive that the components developed in-house can be manufactured on an industrial scale. Besides universities, many of its research projects also involve industrial partners looking to integrate the institute's know-how into their own development and production processes.
FAB-SH creates fresh momentum
Among the key players is the new Schleswig-Holstein research centre for applied battery technology (FAB-SH), which began operating under the umbrella of ISIT in 2022. It focuses on application-oriented research projects that are implemented by 30 scientists, engineers, lab technicians, as well as mechanics, electronics technicians and up to 20 students. "The trend is towards innovation - such as the use of silicon anodes - that will triple the energy density of batteries," explains the deputy director of FAB-SH, Raphael Richter. Research is underway to find faster ways to charge batteries, a key development goal for electric cars alongside increased range. In addition, there are the important aspects of battery reliability and safety.
The basis for this, he says, already exists at the Fraunhofer Institute. FAB-SH can now use the 3,400 square metres of laboratory and office space in its new building to develop batteries for various applications in cars, ships, medical technology or as stationary power storage systems.
"We have developed and patented production processes that are unique to ISIT, such as the dry coating of electrodes and our own separator technology for joining battery cells," explains Holger Kapels. In the field of cell technology, the Itzehoer Institute is considered a leader in the development of high-performance cells and high-temperature batteries. The new FAB-SH will now accelerate and optimise the industrialisation of these and other battery technologies.
Revolutionary materials research at the University of Kiel
New materials and manufacturing processes could trigger a revolution in battery technology. This is the firm conviction of researchers at the laboratory for reliable batterybased energy conversion (BAEW) at the University of Kiel. The BAEW team has developed a silicon anode that can store ten times more energy than the graphite anodes currently used in lithium-ion batteries. Should this technology become established, electric cars with ranges of 1,000 kilometres would no longer be a pipe dream. It is now a question of making the new anode viable for industrial use.
AI-based battery management at Kiel University of Applied Sciences
Every electric car driver knows the battery is the heart of their vehicle. It is an expensive component with a finite service life. "That's why it's important to monitor and control batteries to ensure they provide power for as long as possible, and to predict impending faults," explains Professor Christoph Weber from Kiel University of Applied Sciences. He says this requires sophisticated battery management and diagnostic systems that can monitor the health of each battery cell. At the university's Institute of Mechatronics, the professor and his team are developing self learning systems equipped with artificial intelligence (AI).
"In the field of e-mobility and power storage systems for renewable energy, monitoring battery performance and health is paramount. We've designed a new, reliable system that continously collects and interprets all relevant data and makes self-learning predictions, for example when certain battery modules or cells will develop faults," explains Weber. This knowledge would enable car manufactures to carry out targeted repairs, for example.
Kiel UAS has already applied for a patent for another innovative procedure called the "living model for battery condition predicition". "Until now, battery storage systems have always required extra maintenance just to ensure their operational safety, which comes at an enormous cost. With our monitoring system, we can reliably predict when the health of a battery cell will deteriorate and arrange a replacement or repair before a failure occurs," explains Professor Weber. This could, he adds, allow replacement systems to be dispensed with.
Megatrends: hydrogen and battery technology
You will often encounter two rival camps in the car industry - divided by the belief that either battery-powered electric cars or hydrogen vehicles will ultimately prevail. However this debate regarding future mobility solutions makes it clear that both systems are needed. Batteries are also essential in vehicles powered by hydrogen-powered fuel-cells; for example to store braking energy or assist the electric motor during acceleration.
In Schleswig-Holstein, all roads lead to the future. With its diverse research and development landscape, and through active promotion of new efficient and environmentally friendly technologies, our state is ready to help shape technologies progress far beyond our own boarders.