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Altech declares “eightfold” increase for Silumina output

Updated: Nov 16, 2023

The front end of Altech Batteries’ Silumina plant design. Credit: File

Altech Batteries says a decision to remove graphite from a definitive feasibility study (DFS) into its Silumina Anodes pilot plant in Germany has triggered an “eightfold” output increase to 8000 tonnes per annum of alumina-coated silicon.

The company says its modified study, which reveals the increase from 1000 tonnes per annum, was crafted in response to preferences gleaned from potential customers and has been achieved with no change to the plant or equipment.

The original DFS outlined the plant’s 10,000 tonnes per annum output based on a 10 per cent mix comprising 1000 tonnes of its Silumina metallurgical silicon product coated with high-purity alumina (HPA), blended with 9000 tonnes of graphite, also coated with HPA.

But Altech says customers expressed a preference for using their own qualified graphite sources, prompting the move to modify its DFS with the production of only its HPA-coated silicon product. The company has licenced its proprietary high-purity alumina coating technology to its 75 per cent-owned subsidiary, Altech Industries Germany. The subsidiary started the DFS for the development of a 10,000 tonnes per annum silicon-graphite-alumina coating plant in the German State of Saxony in a mission to supply its trademarked “Silumina Anodes” product to the burgeoning European electric vehicle (EV) market.

The substantial eight-fold increase in Silumina Anode output, achieved without significant changes in the plant or capital costs, represents a notable advance in Altech’s business strategy. There is an increasing demand in the lithium-ion battery industry for higher-density batteries and this emphasises a need to reduce reliance on graphite, particularly in view of possible export restrictions by major suppliers. Altech is confident that incorporation of Altech’s alumina-coated silicon can assist battery customers to address these concerns. Altech Batteries managing director Iggy Tan

The company says while its research indicates there is a marginal advantage in using alumina-coated graphite in batteries, such as reducing first-cycle loss, the cost-to-reward ratio for graphite is relatively minimal. It believes the primary appeal for potential customers lies in integrating its HPA-coated silicon into their battery products. Management says its “all silicon” adjustment to the DFS is expected to yield substantial improvements in its bottom-line economics and that its most notable advantage lies in the company’s ability to crack the silicon code, preventing expansion defragmentation and curbing the significant first-cycle losses usually associated with silicon. Additionally, it expects to achieve an increase of at least 30 per cent in battery energy density.

The move away from heavy graphite use is expected to be a positive one for the company, given the current strong reliance of the largely graphite-based battery industry on major international supply sources, which many industry observers believe are likely to become less stable in the near-to-medium term.

That sentiment is also reflected by Altech’s development of its revolutionary “Cerenergy” sodium chloride solid-state battery, which it is positioning as a game-changing alternative to lithium-ion batteries. Cerenergy batteries are fire and explosion proof, have a long lifespan and operate in extremes of heat and cold.

Management also says the batteries are free of lithium, cobalt, graphite and copper, eliminating a large part of potentially negative exposures to critical metal price variations and supply chain concerns.

Altech says it is in talks with its European silicon partner, Ferroglobe, to boost the supply of metallurgical silicon for its enhanced Silumina Anodes project. The company has also executed non-disclosure agreements with prominent automotive conglomerates in Europe and the United States, who have shown keen interest in acquiring commercial samples for their own testing and qualification procedures.

As Altech’s research and development laboratory in Perth has only limited production capacity, it says the larger samples required by the auto giants will be obtained from its subsidiary’s pilot plant, which is nearing completion and expected to be operational early in the new year.

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