Empowering the Future: The Progress of Solid-State Battery Technology
Oct 18, 2023 Dr Xiaoxi He
In the ever-evolving energy storage landscape, the advent of solid-state batteries (SSBs) is leading to a new era of possibilities. As the demand for higher performance and safer energy storage solutions grows, SSBs have emerged as a frontrunner in the race for next-generation battery technology. SSBs have been further developed for more than a decade after some initial commercial efforts. The landscape is quite different from what it looked like ten years ago, as discussed in IDTechEx's technology and market research report, "Solid-State and Polymer Batteries 2023-2033: Technology, Forecasts, Players".
Understanding solid-state batteries
Since their inception in the 1990s, lithium-ion batteries have seamlessly integrated into our lives, offering portability, longevity, and energy density thanks to their reliable performance, cost-effectiveness, and widespread availability. These batteries typically consist of a graphite anode, a layered oxide cathode, and a separator soaked in an organic liquid electrolyte. These components, combined in various configurations, create the Li-ion battery modules and packs that power our devices and vehicles.
While lithium-ion batteries continue to dominate the energy storage market, they come with limitations, including safety concerns and environmental issues related to their liquid electrolytes. Solid-state batteries have emerged as a promising alternative in response to these challenges.
Solid-state batteries replace the flammable liquid electrolyte with a solid-state electrolyte (SSE), which offers inherent safety benefits. SSEs also open the door to using different cathode and anode materials, expanding the possibilities of battery design. Although some SSBs are based on lithium-ion chemistry, not all follow this path.
Why solid-state batteries matter
Several key performance indicators (KPIs) make SSBs an attractive choice for various applications.
SSB KPIs. Source: IDTechEx
Enhanced Safety: SSBs are considered the "holy grail" of battery technology due to their improved safety profile. The absence of flammable liquid electrolytes minimizes the risk of thermal runaway, making SSBs a safer option.
Higher Energy Density: SSBs offer the potential for higher energy density, a critical factor in applications like electric vehicles (EVs) and consumer electronics, where longer range and longer battery life are desired.
Longer Cycle Life: SSBs tend to have longer cycle lives, meaning they can withstand more charge and discharge cycles without significant degradation.
Wide Operating Temperature Range: SSBs can operate effectively across a broader temperature range, making them suitable for extreme conditions.
Simplified Design: SSBs can simplify battery design due to their solid-state nature, potentially reducing the complexity of energy storage systems.
Flexibility: Some SSBs offer mechanical flexibility, allowing them to be integrated into various form factors.
These advantages have spurred intense interest in SSB technology across industries.
The path to market realization
The journey to market realization for SSBs has been a subject of much debate. To define when SSBs will become a reality, it's crucial to clarify what constitutes an SSB. Currently, polymer-based SSBs are commercially available, while semi/hybrid/pseudo SSBs are undergoing trials. Ceramic-based all solid-state batteries (ASSBs) remain in the developmental phase.
True SSBs should be devoid of any liquid or gel polymers. However, semi/hybrid/pseudo SSBs, which may contain liquid components, still offer advantages such as enhanced safety and higher energy density. They are often referred to as "Solid-state batteries" in the public domain.
Several technological approaches fall under the SSB umbrella, including oxide, sulfide, and polymer systems, each with its variations. Sulfide electrolytes, for instance, offer high ionic conductivity but face challenges in manufacturing and safety. Polymer systems are easy to fabricate but have limitations in operating temperature and stability. Oxide systems offer stability but have higher manufacturing costs.
Commercialization may begin with polymer-based SSBs, followed by semi-solid oxide systems. Sulfide systems, while gaining attention, may take longer to reach the market.
The adoption of SSBs faces challenges, including high capital expenditure (CAPEX), comparable operational costs (OPEX), and premium pricing. Clear value propositions must be presented to gain public acceptance.
While discussions about the safety benefits of SSBs persist, evidence suggests they offer higher abuse tolerance. Heightened energy density is another advantage, but it must align with cathode and anode materials advancements.
System-level efforts, such as cell to pack (CTP) design, thermal management systems, and mechanical innovations, are gaining prominence. CTP designs, driven by improved safety and bipolar stacking, enable flexible pack designs and higher energy density.
Initial generations of SSBs may have lower energy densities and higher costs compared to Li-ion batteries at cell level. However, the benefits of flexible design and reduced material use may make SSB packs competitive.
Thermal management systems for SSBs will be essential, with different operating temperature requirements than Li-ion batteries.
In addition to technology, considerations must address equipment utilization, factory footprint, supply chain establishment, and manufacturing yield improvement.
Polymer-based SSBs are already in use in vehicles like the Daimler eCitaro. Toyota's technological breakthrough announcement is expected to drive further material development and device optimization.
The market may embrace SSBs, even if they contain small amounts of liquid or gel polymers, as long as they deliver the desired features. Hybrid semi-solid batteries could provide a transition route, offering improved performance. In the short term, hybrid SSBs may become more common, with ASSBs representing the ultimate destination as technology matures.
There are many questions around solid-state batteries, from technology benchmarking & analysis, market estimation & forecast, player activity tracking & evaluation, to supply chain establishment & security. It is important to understand both the science and business behind it to make the correct strategic decisions. IDTechEx's market research report, "Solid-State and Polymer Batteries 2023-2033: Technology, Forecasts, Players", answers the major questions, challenges, and opportunities for solid-state batteries.
To find out more about this IDTechEx report, including downloadable sample pages, please visit www.IDTechEx.com/SSB. For the full portfolio of energy storage related research from IDTechEx, please visit www.IDTechEx.com/Research/ES.
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