Arkema is a longtime competitor in the global R&D race to improve the performance of lithium-ion batteries, and is playing an active role in the growth of electric vehicles.
Greater range, reduced charge time, and lower purchase prices are some of the factors that will gradually leverage electric vehicles and transform the mobility landscape. They mainly relate to the performance of lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries, the technology that currently dominates the market, to which Arkema is making major contributions thanks to its leading expertise in fluoropolymers. “For the past 15 years, we have been working on a series of special grades of Kynar® PVDF, which play various key roles in batteries,” explains Thomas Fine, Global Market Manager, Batteries.
Kynar® polymer performs very well as a separator film (between the anode and cathode), helping to reduce the charge time and increase the battery lifetime. It also plays an important role as a binder in electrodes, making batteries more energy efficient. An established partner to battery manufacturers, Arkema posted two-digit growth for these PVDF applications in 2019. It is the only firm in the world to produce them on three continents – Europe, North America, Asia – using the same procedure, an essential factor for all major battery players. The Group also offers other innovative Li-ion battery solutions (carbon nanotubes for cathodes, electrolyte salts), and is investing in R&D for emerging technologies around lithium-sulfur and solid-state batteries.
Already employed in taxis and buses in Paris and elsewhere, the hydrogen engine is playing a part in decarbonizing transport for the future. For vehicle manufacturers, the key challenge lies with the hydrogen tanks, which need to withstand internal pressure of 700 bars while offering the best weight per stored volume. “Current systems, obtained by filament winding thermoset epoxy resins, are costly and take a long time to produce,” explains Guillaume Clédat, Business and Development Manager, Arkema. Elium ® thermoplastic resin combined with carbon fibers could change everything. “The first prototypes, made in 2019 in partnership with major automotive parts manufacturers, show significant industrial gains in terms of reducing the winding time and eliminating the cure time.” Arkema’s R&D department is also developing a second technology based on carbon tapes impregnated with Rilsan® Matrix resin, which also offers notable productivity gains, as well as improved temperature resistance and new levels of performance in terms of rapid charging.