Altech Chemicals is to embed itself in Europe’s booming lithium-ion battery (LIB) industry through a high-tech nano application of its high purity alumina (HPA) technology.
Best known for its HPA production project in Malaysia targeted at the thermal separator LIB market and the more established markets of LED lights, semiconductor wafers and scratch-resistant glass, Altech now has its sights on the battery materials coating market.
Altech’s 75 per cent owned Germany subsidiary has started a prefeasibility study in to the construction of a battery materials HPA coating plant in Saxony.
The PFS is based on a phase one coating plant with the capacity to coat 10,000 tonnes per annum (tpa) of anode graphite, using Altech’s nano alumina coating technology.
Altech managing director Iggy Tan says that the HPA technology to coat graphite or silicon participles in battery anodes is “going to be game-changer for LIBs.’’
“Every new LIB loses 8-10 per cent of its lithium on its first charge. It goes to the anode side and it basically gets deactivated,” Tan says.
“It’s called the first cycle capacity loss and is a problem that the industry has been trying to solve for decades.
“What we have done is coat the graphite or silicon particles with a very thin layer of alumina of about two nanometres. And in our battery tests we have seen an immediate benefit.
“Essentially what we are doing is taking our HPA and going further downstream, using technology to apply straight into battery applications.”
Germany is a natural home for the proposed plant, with Tan saying Europe is the “new’’ lithium story.
“That’s driven by tough regulations on auto emissions. And Europe has said it will not be reliant on Asia for raw materials and battery manufacture,” Tan says.
Forecast graphite demand for anode production in Europe is more than 500,000tpa, assuming all of the currently proposed LIB plants are built.
In settling on 10,000tpa in the PFS, Altech has taken a conservative approach and assumed only half are built. That would mean the proposed Saxony plant will account for 4 per cent of Europe’s demand.
Tan says the coating plant’s HPA feedstock requirement will eventually be satisfied from Altech’s proposed Malaysian HPA plant where initial site preparation work has been completed, with project completion dependent on securing finance.
He says that by self-funding the early stage works, the project’s construction start-up is significantly de-risked.
“We will have a running start when the financing comes through,” Tan says.
Because the Malaysian project is considered a “climate change project’’ for green bond financing purposes (it is 49 per cent less greenhouse intensive than existing HPA operations as it does not use aluminium metal as its feedstock), Altech is seeking a $US144 million ($186 million) listed green bond raising.