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Elkem dedicates new Vianode subsidiary to advanced battery material production

Silicon-graphite composite materials development and R&D projects such as 3beLiEVe and Hydra to support novel, sustainable innovations to improve the energy, performance and cost of lithium-ion batteries.

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Elkem Kristiansand, Norway industrial pilot facility for lithium-ion batteriess.

Elkem Kristiansand, Norway industrial pilot facility for lithium-ion batteries. Photo Credit: Elkem

Advanced material solutions provider Elkem (Oslo, Norway) has successfully commissioned its industrial pilot facility for battery materials in Kristiansand, Norway, starting industrial-scale pilot production for customers. As the next step towards large-scale production, Elkem is now establishing Vianode as a new company and brand dedicated to develop and produce sustainable and high-quality active anode materials — such as its current project on silicon-graphite composite materials — for rechargeable lithium-ion batteries (see “Graphene used to extend rechargeable battery life”) to meet the needs of the exponentially growing electric vehicles marketplace.

“The production of battery materials represents one of our biggest growth opportunities,” says Michael Koenig, CEO of Elkhem. “By commissioning the industrial pilot, we have taken a significant step in preparing our products for customers. By establishing Vianode as a dedicated company for advanced battery materials, we ensure full focus on developing this business and progressing the large-scale battery plant towards a planned final investment decision in 2021.”

Positioned as a full-owned subsidiary of Elkem for its advanced battery material activities, Vianode is currently still in active recruitment for key positions, including the organization for the planned facility at Herøya Industrial Park in Norway. Nevertheless, the company’s qualification processes are already underway at its Kristiansand, Norway, industrial pilot plant with several global battery cell manufacturers, and Elkem is currently inviting external industrial and financial partners to participate.

“Today, anode materials [one of four main components for a lithium-ion battery] are one of the largest greenhouse gas emission contributors in battery cell production,” Stian Madshus, vice president and general manager Europe at Vianode points out. “Vianode intends to reduce emissions from this part of the battery materials value chain by more than 90% compared to conventional production.”

In addition to beginning a dialogue with several manufacturers, Vianode also entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) related to the supply of battery materials with FREYR (Norway) in October 2020. Moreover, the company has received NOK 10 million (approx. $1.2 million) in financial support from Enova, the Norwegian government body to contribute to the low emission society, to fund the initial planning of the potential large-scale battery materials plant in Norway. Additional applications will be submitted to Enova over the coming months in relation to the large-scale plant.

Vianode has also previously received grants from Innovation Norway related to the pilot plant, and is on the shortlist for support from EU’s Innovation Fund with preliminary scores in the upper tier in relation to “degree of innovation,” “project maturity” and “relative GHG emissions.”

Overall, Vianode expects to continue carrying out advanced research on silicon-graphite composite materials for improved battery performance in the years to come. The company is also participating in the Hydra and 3beLiEVe research projects on next-generation lithium-ion batteries, coordinated by independent research company SINTEF (Trondheim, Norway) and the Austrian Institute of Technology (Seibersdorf), respectively. Both projects have received funding from the EU Horizon program. Vianode is also investing in R&D on recycling of battery-grade graphite which is supported by the Norwegian Research Council.

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