Together with Sila, a modern battery materials company, Mercedes-Benz invests in Silicon anode technology To power future electric models. Innovative materials are able to multiply Energy storage capacity is up to 10 times – which means a revolution in the autonomy of electric vehicles.
If all goes well, the first car to get the new battery will be the Mercedes-Benz G-Class electric model, scheduled for launch in the middle of the decade.
Discover the new silicon anode battery technology
Batteries basically consist of three specific parts, one of which is the anode (the other parts are the cathode and the electrolyte). It is in this region that electrons are formed, which provide energy to electrical devices. As of 2011, graphite anodes are more commonly used in lithium batteries.
The anode is negatively charged and is where the electrons accumulate. Assuming physics, the electrons are forced to move into a positive charge, which is produced by the cathode.
The electrolyte layer prevents electrons from entering the negative electrode directly and instead forces the energy to move through the electrical device, turning the device on and making it work, before stopping at the cathode. This is the process that makes all batteries work.
The silicon anode has the theoretical ability to produce up to 10 times the amount of energy that a conventional graphite anode. The big question, from the point of view of the technologies developed so far, is that the silicon anode degrades easily.
The problem with silicon is that in order to store a lot of energy, it swells as the battery resets. While the graphite anode expands by only 10% at most, the expansion of silicon reaches 350% – this leads to the deterioration of the material. With 50 to 100 charges, the battery is unusable.
Cooperation between SILA and Mercedes-Benz
Mercedes-Benz began investing in Sela in 2019, as part of its research and development philosophy, in pursuit of increasingly advanced batteries.
“The supply agreement represents another milestone in Mercedes-Benz’s ambition to become the world’s leading manufacturer of electric vehicles,” the German automaker said in a press release.
The companies’ goal, by agreement, is to solve the technological problems that still prevent the use of silicon anodes on a commercial scale.
“Silah is improving all aspects of battery performance, producing high quality controlled silicon anode materials on a large scale, and supporting implementation to ensure that customers [ou seja, a montadora] achieve their goals and safety requirements,” Mercedes-Benz announces.
Compared to cells available on the market today, Sila technology allows for up to 40% increase in energy density, reaching over 800 Watt-hours per liter (Wh/l) at the cell level.
This remarkable result in the development of equipment allows to store more energy in the same space, which makes it possible to significantly increase the autonomy of future vehicles.
The silicone anode materials will be manufactured using 100% renewable energy at the new Washington State facility in Silla, with a commitment to be the manufacturer’s first automotive customer.
The University of California managed to bypass the limitations of silicon
In September last year, researchers at the University of California, San Diego, USA, announced the development of a type of solid-state battery using silicon anodes. After the first tests, the cell proved to be safer, more durable and has a large power capacity during charging cycles.
“We’ve shown that our battery delivers 500 charge-discharge cycles while keeping capacity at 80% at room temperature, which is an exciting advance for silicon anode and solid-state battery research.” Chemical engineer Darren HS Tan, lead author of the study.
After replacing the liquid electrolyte with a solid electrolyte, and removing the carbon and silicon bonds from the anode, the scientists were able to prevent the entire system from immersing during battery operating cycles. With this, it was possible to create a complete solid-state power cell.
The solid-state silicon approach overcomes many limitations in conventional batteries. It offers great opportunities for us to meet market demands for higher volumetric energy, lower costs and safer batteries, especially for grid energy storage and electric vehicles,” Tan analyzed.
Now, it remains to follow, with great anticipation, the progress of the alliance between Mercedes-Benz and Sila, which could drive a radical innovation in the automotive market, by overturning the last favorite point of combustion engines: the autonomy of vehicles. Is it, after all, a goodbye to fossil fuels?