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Altech Batteries reveals new sodium chloride battery pack design

A cross section of Altech Batteries’ vacuum-sealed pack and cell frames. Credit: File

Altech Batteries has unveiled the new design for its 60KWh Cerenergy sodium chloride solid-state battery pack and now has two prototypes under construction by its project partner, the Fraunhofer Institute in the German city of Dresden.

The company says its pack has been upgraded to improve structural integrity, cell retention and connectivity, heat loss and insulation and the ability to endure temperature extremes following collaboration with its various component suppliers.

To meet the potentially harsh environments where the packs could be deployed, the battery casing has been fitted with a vacuum-sealed, double-sided enclosure for optimal insulation. Considering it operates at an internal temperature of about 270°C, it is crucial to minimise heat transfer and minimise any potential risks from human contact with the battery’s exterior.

Altech says the base of the battery has been further reinforced to accommodate high temperature-resistant electrical cables and connectors to minimise external heat loss and it has incorporated heat pads into the internal vacuum-packed casing to handle the possibility of cold starting. It explains that the heating process typically takes some 10 hours before the battery is fully activated. But once it is initialised, it can efficiently sustain its core temperature with minimal reliance on its heating pads.

We are extremely pleased with the new stainless-steel design of the 60KWh batteries. These will be able to operate in the snow, as well as desert conditions, without the finish being affected. The vacuum-sealed casing will provide the perfect insulation and minimise any heat loss, which is the key benefit of our sodium chloride solid-state batteries. The production of the prototype batteries is progressing well. The produced cells are performing well under bench performance testing, and it will be great to see the whole 60KWh unit under performance load. This is the first time our partner Fraunhofer has made such a large battery unit Altech Batteries managing director Iggy Tan

The company says it has made further enhancements to the five internal frames in its packs, each of which houses 48 cells, to optimise performance. The connector plates responsible for electrically linking the cells, while maintaining insulation using mica sheets, have been meticulously designed. The cells are connected through precise laser-targeted welding.

Mica is commonly used in many electrical and thermal applications. Thermally, pure mica can withstand up to 900°C and when reinforced and laminated with other materials, it can tolerate up to 1600°C. It offers high thermal stability as it is non-flammable and its low thermal conductivity makes it an excellent thermal insulator.

Altech’s pack prototypes are in production with Fraunhofer, with about half of the required cells completed. Fraunhofer says completed cells are performing as expected.

While the cells are being fabricated, the first stainless-steel, vacuum-sealed battery case has been delivered to Fraunhofer and will undergo comprehensive heat transfer loss testing, in addition to temperature profiling by scientists, before assembly. Further cycling and long-term performance tests will then be conducted on the completed battery packs.

Altech is positioning its Cerenergy product as a game-changing alternative to lithium-ion batteries as it is fire and explosion-proof, has a life span of more than 15 years and can operate in both temperature extremes. The company’s technology uses table salt and is free of lithium, cobalt, graphite and copper, eliminating many of the usual market exposures to critical metal price rises and supply chain concerns.

The joint venture also plans to construct a 100MWh production facility on Altech’s land in the German State of Saxony, with a view to providing grid storage solutions to the market.

Altech says its new design now sports a “sleek, crisp stainless-steel exterior” – a bit like a silver rendition of the rectangular monolith from Space Odyssey, exuding an air of silent mysterious strength.

But even though we are generally tactile and visual creatures who tend to be attracted to what we can see and touch, it seems this pack is not just a pretty face.

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