SIMBA - Sustainable and Innovative Materials for Batteries
The Flemish SIM program “SIMBA – Sustainable and Innovative Materials for Batteries” is defined in line with the European R&I strategy for Energy Storage. The program focuses on the local cross-sectoral competences in materials development, electrochemistry, characterization, modelling and sustainability assessments. The scope encompasses the full value chain, from “raw materials” up to “end-of-life”.
The ambition of the SIMBA program is to bundle this knowhow and effort to create a local battery ecosystem, which enables value creation and jobs in Flanders by the time generation 4 batteries (all solid-state, ASSB) break through.
Towards the next generation of Li batteries
Battery research has been given a top spot on the research agenda in Europe as many platforms, roadmaps, partnerships, and action plans illustrate. Why?
More frequent wildfires, longer periods of drought, more intense tropical storms … It probably needs no further explanation. The growing awareness of global warming grows stronger each day and the need for sustainable energy solutions goes along with it. Not only in particular countries, but even on the international agenda. For good reason, the Flemish government declared sustainable energy already in 2016 as one of its seven transition priorities. The European Commission also dedicated important funding for this research. As climate change is no longer a far-off phenomenon, we need to act now. That is exactly what the SIM SIMBA Program intends to do: increase the impact in terms of energy transition and climate goals.
Materials for Energy as one of the original SIM-themes
Solar- and wind energy are abundant, but their availability is variable. As such, to realize a significant reduction in the use of fossil fuels a clean and cheap means of energy storage is required to bridge the periods during which the energy needs exceed the availability of wind- and solar energy. Batteries are one of the promising solutions, but the existing battery-technologies still face several hurdles, such as limited cycle life, insufficient energy density, safety, availability of the required raw materials and above all the price.
Since 2017, SIM has been evaluating the opportunities to start a new Flemish Battery program to overcome abovementioned hurdles and to keep our region at the forefront of this promising but fast changing field. In 2020, SIM successfully launched the Flemish SIMBA program, using the momentum created by two SBO-project proposals (FUGELS and LifeSBat). The main driver of the program is to support research for battery materials which have the potential to facilitate and accelerate the energy transition.
SIMBA: more facts and figures
The way in which the SIMBA program “Sustainable and Innovative Materials for BAtteries” is aligned with the European R&I Strategy Battery Energy Storage and how it integrates all segments along the battery value chain is the following:It is in accordance with European platforms, initiatives, and roadmaps (EMIRI, Battery 2030+, Batteries Europe ETIP, European Battery Alliance, EIT InnoEnergy, EIT Raw Materials, Batteries Partnership, Strategic Action Plan on Batteries, and the Circular Economy Action Plan)
It engages a large pool of industrial partners from raw materials to end-of-life
It pursues a holistic approach on sustainable battery development to
- strengthen the Flemish battery-related industry
- make full use of the expertise of Flemish knowledge institutes
- increase the impact regarding energy transition and climate goals
The Flemish program is aligned with the European initiatives but wants to focus on the local cross-sectoral competences of modelling, electrochemistry, materials development, characterization, and sustainability assessments as well. The scope covers the entire value chain, from “raw materials” up to “end-of-life”. The Battery Roadmap primarily concentrates on all-solid-state batteries (ASSB) and is up to date and in line with European roadmaps.
The strategy of the SIM battery program is to build on the knowledge developed in the 2 cSBOs LifeSBat and FUGELS:
The cSBO LifeSBat will develop a simulation tool for the performance and lifetime of all solid-state battery composite cathodes which, together with experimental feedback from selected model interfaces, will help to accelerate the development of the next generation of Lithium based batteries by eliminating many time-consuming trial-and-error experiments.
Although the maximum volumetric energy density of Li-ASSB is in practice twice as high as that of Lithium Sulfur batteries (LSB) (1000 kWh/l vs. 500 kWh/l), it will be impossible to integrate an NMC cathode in all next-generation batteries, simply because there is not enough cobalt available to meet the future demand.
Therefore FUGELS, the other cSBO, is an interesting complementary track for the SIM battery program. Sulfur is more abundant and cheaper than Ni and especially Co which are needed in NMC cathodes. Low-cost LSB have an enormous potential for stationary energy storage and other applications where, in contrast to mobile applications, a lower volumetric energy density is not really a problem. FUGELS aims to increase the specific energy and lifetime of LSBs by developing novel sulfur and lithium electrode architectures.
The development of lithium metal anodes as the second highlight of the FUGELS project, is also crucial for all types of ASSB batteries. Li-metal electrodes will also be the topic of one of the follow-up projects.
The scope can and will be broadened in due time, according to the industrial demands during the program. Depending on the industrial needs for research and development in ICON projects and other project types, the program will be in continuous evaluation to keep it in line with the international and local demands.
Convinced of the value of SIMBA?
In fact, there is great interest in a local initiative in this field. The defined program and the momentum created by the 2 SBO projects, already motivated 10 companies in a very short time to become part of the initial steering committee of this program.