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TNO Holst Centre and the German Zentrum für Sonnenenergie- und Wasserstoff-Forschung (ZSW) will collaborate on developing next-generation Li-ion batteries for the European automotive industry. The collaboration will combine Holst Centre’s expertise in Thin Film Technology processes and equipment with ZSW’s expertise in battery materials and integration. Each institution will involve its local partners from the battery (manufacturing) chain and the automotive industry. The province of North Brabant and the German state of Baden-Württemberg are funding this cross-border research with about 3.4 million euros.

The progressive electrification of vehicles is necessary to meet the EU’s ambitious CO2 emission reduction targets. The development of batteries with greater storage capacity and especially longer life will help accelerate the adaptation of electric cars on the market. This project aims to improve battery performance by stabilizing critical interfaces in the Li-ion battery using thin film technology, for example by spatial Atomic Layer Deposition. TNO has more than 15 years of experience with this technology within Holst Centre and is connected to equipment manufacturers in the North Brabant region. ZSW contributes with its expertise in battery materials and integration, which is anchored in the German automotive battery chain. In addition, there is close cooperation with the Naturwissenschaftliches und Medizinisches Institut of the Universität Tübingen (NMI) for detailed material characterization.

Initial focus is on lithium

The project will initially focus on improving existing Li-ion batteries, due to the high short-term potential and immediate application of this existing technology. Due to the emergence of non-Lithium battery types, for example, sodium-ion batteries, these will be investigated in a second phase.

A cross-border battery ecosystem

The project runs until the end of February 2025 and is intended to be the first step in a long-term relationship between the two research and development centers. It also sets the stage for establishing a cross-border battery ecosystem that aims to stimulate cooperation, economic activity, and employment in both regions.

Ton van Mol, director of TNO at Holst Centre sees his organization’s role as including expertise in thin film technology. “Our spatial Atomic Layer Deposition technology significantly improves the stability of next-generation Li-ion batteries, resulting in faster and higher charging capacity. Thanks to our expertise in thin film technology, this new generation of batteries will be much more stable. The technology can be seamlessly integrated into existing gigafactories and applied in large-scale production of battery cells in conjunction with electric vehicles.”

Margret Wohlfahrt-Mehrens, head of Electrochemical Materials Research, ZSW, adds: “It is high time to establish strong cross-border relationships and cooperation within the countries of the European Union. The development of lithium-ion batteries must be further accelerated to meet the European Union’s CO2 emission targets.”