A Community of Innovation and a New Generation of Solid-State Lithium Batteries

Hannah Loss:
Hello and welcome to the Cambridge Enertech podcast for the Battery Safety Summit taking place this October 22nd to 25th in Alexandria, Virginia. I'm Hannah Loss, Conference Production Assistant. With us today is one of our speakers, Dr. Alla Smirnova, Professor at the Dakota School of Mines and Technology and Director of the Center for Green Solid State Electric Power Generation and Storage or CEPS. Alla, thank you for joining us.

A Smirnova:
It is my pleasure. Thank you.

Hannah Loss:
So, in your view, what defines sustainable or green energy storage around which much of your research focuses on?

A Smirnova:
The green energy storage is all about sustainable energy and sustainable environment. This is a very big deal for our state and for the nation because of sustainable energy and sustainable environment that are inseparable. Because conventional batteries have many problems, it is very important to start working on the next generation of solid-state energy technology. That is what we're doing now.

Hannah Loss:
So, you're Director, in addition to being a professor at South Dakota School of Mines, you're Director at the Center for Green Solid State Electric Power Generation and Storage. How did CEPS come about and what's its mission?

A Smirnova:
I came to the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in 2011  and in the beginning continued working on electrochemical mechanisms in different types of fuel cells. Later, due to the NASA support, we started working on lithium-ion batteries.  At that time, we realized that conventional batteries reached their limits of technical capabilities and that we need a fundamentally new approach. This approach is called solid-state energy storage technology. In 2018  our research efforts to develop a solid-state battery was  supported by the Department of Defense and in 2019 a project to establish an industry university collaborative research center (IUCRC) in solid-state energy technology  was approved by the NSF.

A Smirnova:
It was a big surprise and a big deal for our state of South Dakota. South Dakota is not as well-known as other parts of the country. For example, the Michigan area and Silicon Valley, California, however, we were able to win this award and the mission of the center is to accelerate the research and development for the next generation of energy storage.

A Smirnova:
Our plan is to  introduce this new technology to the market. However, it is a very, very big challenge. It can be solved effectively and efficiently through combined efforts only. And these efforts are between academia, industry, state and federal agencies and national labs are established by the center. This is a big effort initiated by the National Science Foundation and we're very grateful for their decision.
We're in the very beginning of establishing the center. Currently the center involves four universities. We have three universities from South Dakota and the Northeastern University from Boston. We also involve many companies from various industry sectors such as automotive, medical, electric, power grid, portable, and many others. So that's basically the whole idea about the Center and its mission.

Hannah Loss:
And if energy scientists or anyone listening to this right now and they want to get involved in the Center, is there a way to go about doing that?

A Smirnova:
Absolutely.  Interested scientists can be involved by joining the center. As I mentioned, we have four universities, but in future we can expand. We plan to involve other universities. The companies are more than welcome to join the center as members of the team. We'll have the first planning grant meeting that will take place on the South Dakota School of Mines campus, which is about 20 miles from the Mount Rushmore.  The information about the center is available on our website:  www.greenceps.com. The world map on this website reflects many visitors interested in this technology. This number grows every day and reflects an interest around the world. The names of the attendees for this meeting in September are also available on the website. Among them, big companies such as GE, Ford, Bühler, Corning Glass, and others. We are welcome other  scientists and companies to join us at the meeting on September 12th .

Hannah Loss:
So you have that meeting in September and you're also speaking at our meeting, the Battery Safety Summit. Can you talk about the research that you'll be speaking about there related to solid state lithium ion battery? Specifically, I believe your research on anti-perovskite crystal structures.

A Smirnova:
Yes, absolutely. Talking in general about the materials, there are many different types of solids. There are many electrolytes that can be used for the solid-state energy storage technology. They involve different types, such as garnets, LISICONs, ceramic and glass-ceramic materials. Many schools and companies are working with these solid-state electrolytes. We are working specifically on a different glass-ceramic materials  as solid-state electrolytes. They are called anti perovskites, and we believe that they present better choice than ceramic materials or polymer composite materials that are currently under investigation by others. The reason for that is that they are cost effective, they have low melting points, they don't have green boundary effect, and they have wide voltage range. Furthermore, they're stable in presence of lithium metal, in the other words stable to the reduction by lithium metal.

A Smirnova:
There are other advantages of antiperovskites. They have low energy barrier for lithium transport. They have very high band gap. That means that their self- discharge is small and corresponds to  long shelf-life. These materials are also cost-effective and eco-friendly. I think that  these are the major advantages of the materials that we are working on.

Hannah Loss:
Can you explain a little more about how it's more eco-friendly? Is it that the batteries last longer? How do you define it in this case?

A Smirnova:
Eco-friendly is the term that we are using, comparing solid state electrolytes to liquid electrolytes. Liquids are very harmful for the environment. It is hard to collect this waste and to dispose it. And in case of solid-state batteries with solid-state electrolytes, there no liquids which in contact with the moisture from the atmosphere form hazardous waste. They have also other components that are very harmful for the environment. Regarding our materials,  they contain only lithium and a couple of halogens or oxygen atoms.

Hannah Loss:
Where do you see solid-state research and solid-state technologies heading in the future from your research and others?

A Smirnova:
Our research group is not the only one  that is working with antiperovskites-based solid-state electrolytes. There are other groups that are working with glass ceramics, but as we know it takes on average 10 years to introduce new material or a  new technology to the market. While introducing this new technology to the market, there are many different steps and challenges that should be overcome.

A Smirnova:
It is not by chance that the major companies in the United States and around the world form different types of consortia and invest billions of dollars in the development of the next generational solid-state battery technology. The solid state energy storage is basically our future. Sustainable energy and sustainable environment are inseparable  and rely on green electric power storage as the key to the problem. By developing this technology we are saving the environment and the planet.

Hannah Loss:
Alla, thank you for your time and insights today.

A Smirnova:
Thank you so much for inviting me.

Hannah Loss:
That was Dr. Alevtina Smirnova, Associate Professor at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and director of the Center for Green Solid-State Electric Power Generation and Storage. She'll be speaking at the Increasing Efficiency and Thermal Stability of Lithium-Ion Batteries meeting at the battery safety summit, which takes place October 22nd to 25th and Alexandria, Virginia. To hear Dr. Smirnova in person, go to www.cambridgeenertech.com/battery-safety, and enter the key code POD100 on the Registration page. I'm Hannah Loss. Thanks for listening.


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