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Documentary report on supply chains vol.5 producing lithium-ion batteries
The fifth report covers lithium-ion batteries (LiBs),which will play a major role in the realization of a Front-Line Report: Hideaki Miyata
clean, renewable energy society. ITOCHU has President and Representative Director, worked together with Group companies to Social System Design Co., Ltd.
concentrate marketing, technical development, raw Professor Emeritus, material procurement, and logistics capabilities. In The University of Tokyo this way, ITOCHU and Group companies are Representative Director, cooperating to establish a supply chain that will The SB Research Group, Incorporated increase the presence of LiBs.
*About the picture Representative Director, From 2010 to 2012, demonstration tests were conducted for Forum for East Japan Smart City Project FamilyMart's "Tsukuba Kenkyu Gakuen-ten." These testsdemonstrated the successful storing of energy from photovoltaic(PV) power generation and the rapid charging of electric vehicles(EVs).
Small LiBs for electronic equipment, which were first commercialized in 1991 by Japanese manufacturers, have become commodities.
Now, change on a larger scale is being driven by an unfolding paradigm shift—that electricity can be stored. Large LiBs for stationaryor vehicular use are about to change business, and the world. I went to the front lines to investigate how the ITOCHU Group istackling this challenge.
Akira Yoshino, the inventor of LiBs, said that maybe it would have been better not to use the name "batteries." With LiBs, themechanism for the storage of electricity is entirely different from conventional batteries. In LiBs, charging and discharging occurthrough the movement of lithium ions in the gaps between the cathode and the anode when voltage is applied, rather than through achemical reaction as with conventional batteries.
Lithium Resource Development
Currently, three companies that produce lithium at brine lakes in South America have a combinedshare of about 70% of the global lithium market. Simbol Materials (SIM), based in California, hasindependently developed innovative, breakthrough technology to recover and commercializelithium from spent geothermal brine used in geothermal power generation facilities. SIM'sexclusive production method, which is not influenced by the weather, makes it easy to expandfacilities in comparison with the method used in South America, which requires solar evaporation.
Accordingly, SIM's method facilitates further gains in cost competitiveness through increasedproduction capacity.
ITOCHU, which invested in SIM in June 2010, is now working to provide lithium compounds forvarious applications. These applications include cathode materials and the electrolytes in Geothermal brine well in southern electrolytic solution, which are core components of LiBs, as well as other commercial applications.
Cathode Material Production
Location: Toda Kogyo Corp.
Capital / business partnership agreement concluded in December 2012. Equity-method affiliate of ITOCHU. Toda Kogyo and
ITOCHU are operating a joint venture that is engaged in the manufacture and sale of cathode materials in North America and
In addition to lithium, cathode materials also contain manganese, cobalt, nickel, and othercomponents. The performance and lifespan of LiBs are determined by which of these componentsare combined to make the cathode materials. Accordingly, the design and production of cathodematerials plays a central role in the production of LiBs. The production processes for cathodematerials are dissolution, reaction, drying, mixing, firing, and pulverization. Any contaminationby foreign substances will have a critical influence on the product's lifespan and safety.
Consequently, this contamination must be avoided. That is why production sites are kept as cleanas food factories, including high-precision checks that use electromagnets to preventcontamination by iron.
In Japan, lithium and other raw materials for cathode materials are almost all imported.
Raw materials are mixed and accordingly, ITOCHU's procurement supply chain, which handles lithium from SIM, has a key role placed in the container, which is to play in supporting Toda Kogyo's world-class production technologies.
then transferred to the firingmachine, which functions like anoven.
Anode Material Production
Location: Kureha Battery Materials Japan Co., Ltd. (KBMJ)
Established as a joint venture between ITOCHU and KUREHA Corporation in April 2011. Equity-method affiliate of ITOCHU. In
2012, KURARAY Co., Ltd., and The Innovation network Corporation of Japan became shareholders. In addition to the
production of anode materials, KBMJ also has one of the world's top shares in the production of the binder that is used in the
production of electrodes.
When voltage is applied to charge LiBs, lithium ions move from the cathode to the anode.
Performance characteristics, such as the charge capacity, power, and durability of the battery,depend on how the lithium ions are stored in the molecular structure of their destination, theanode.
Anode materials look like black carbon powder, and the processes for anode production—granulation, heat treatment, pulverization, and firing—are completely automated. Theseprocesses incorporate KBMJ's valuable know-how, and by designing and producing a distinctivespace known as the cluster structure, KBMJ is manufacturing products that meet the increasinglyadvanced needs of LiBs. In the future, KBMJ will strive to use its abundant experience andtechnical capabilities to develop anode materials made from coconut shells and other plant-derived materials. In this way, KBMJ plans to address growing demand and the need to reducecosts.
Cathode parts are created by coating cathode materials, in athickness of several tens of microns, onto thin aluminum platesthat have been formed into a roll. In the same way, anodeparts are created by coating anode materials on thin copperplates. At this stage, the coating technology depends onprecision coating machinery.
Anode parts (left), and coating equipment for LiB electrodes (right)made by HIRANO TECSEED Co., Ltd., in which ITOCHU hasinvested. ITOCHU sells coating equipment and all types of otherLiBs production equipment in Japan and overseas.
An insulator, called the separator, is sandwiched between thecathode and the anode, which have been cut to the size of theproduct. The electrolyte solution is added, and the unit isfolded like an aluminum pouch. This completes the basic partsof the laminated LiB.
With batteries for stationary or vehicular use, cells are madeby aligning several basic parts and putting them in analuminum box or a similar container. One cell has a voltage of4 volts. Cells are connected in series to provide the neededcapacity and the assembled battery is finished. Computerizedcontrol is essential to ensure that charging and discharging areconducted in a safe and efficient manner.
In recent years, a growing number of companies have decided to install LiBs as standard equipment in new residential buildings. Forexample, ITOCHU Property Development's CREVIA Futakotamagawa condominium building, which was completed in March 2011,incorporates LiB technology. A PV power generation panel providing about 10 kilowatts has been installed on the roof of this fivestorybuilding, which has 51 condominium units. On the side of the ground-level parking lot, there is an energy management system thatuses a 24-kilowatt LiB. This provides the electricity for the common areas of the condominium building, and the excess portion of theelectricity is sold. There is also a popular car sharing program using EVs.
In addition, an energy storage system from ITOCHU ENEX has been installed at CREVIA Senkawa, which was completed in January2013. If there is a power failure, it can be used as an emergency power source to provide power for lighting and outlets in themeeting room and to operate a pump that supplies well water.
ITOCHU ENEX's energy storage system is for general household use. By combining LiBs with solar power generation systems and fuelcells (Ene-Farm), ITOCHU ENEX is proposing lifestyles that offer energy self-sufficiency, from energy generation to energy storage.
Installations of these systems are beginning to increase.
These LiBs were procured by ITOCHU.
CREVIA Futakotamagawa Overview of CREVIA Senkawa energy storage system Installation of energy storagesystem LiBs for Vehicles
Japan is a leader in the competition to develop EVs, but the adoption of EVs is still in the early stage, and sales in Japan are about20,000 vehicles a year.
However, adoption could increase rapidly in the near future in China and other countries, where the rapid progress of motorizationhas led to simultaneous worsening of air pollution and provided support for the adoption of EVs. Assuming that 10% of passenger carsproduced worldwide are eco-friendly, the market for vehicular LiBs would be more than 10 times larger than the established marketfor the small batteries used in electronic devices.
Since 2010, ITOCHU has been supplying LiBs to demonstration projects involving the switch to EVs by public transportationinstitutions associated with the Ministry of the Environment and local municipalities. From 2010 to 2012, with the cooperation of aconvenience store in Tsukuba City, ITOCHU successfully conducted a demonstration test of a charging station for EVs using solarpower generation as the source of electricity.
LiB-powered electric bus inoperation in Akita Prefecture Test conducted at Tsukuba City convenience store A Bright Future With Clean Energy
To optimize the energy supply, a range of separate initiatives is necessary because the
relevant factors vary, not only by application but also by region. These factors include
the state of infrastructure, the geographic area of a country, and access to sources of
fossil fuels and clean energy. For example, the United States covers a large geographic
area and its infrastructure is aging, so frequency adjustment and other techniques will
contribute to the optimization of supply. In Russia, which covers a large area and in
which infrastructure has not caught up to economic growth, distributed sources of
electrical power will make a contribution in the short term.
Moreover, to foster the use of clean energy it will be necessary to achieve cost
competitiveness that is comparable to that of fossil fuels. In the United States,
electricity bills vary by state, but they are extremely inexpensive. U.S. startup
companies and large corporations are competing fiercely in the area of dramatic CTO of 24M Technologies, Inc.
(a venture company spun off The ability of clean energy and electricity storage technologies to withstand actual usage conditions have been demonstrated for 10 years. Adoption has been delayed, but Former CTO of Ener1/EnerDel, Pike Research forecasts that in 2018 the industry will have a scale of about ¥1 trillion.
Over the next 10 years, clean energy is expected to become the primary source ofenergy and to make a contribution to a sustainable world.
The future of nuclear power generation is unclear, and as a result the introduction of renewableenergy on a large scale will be indispensable for the resolution of Japan's energy andenvironmental problems. Accordingly, I believe that the effective use of land and the introductionof large-scale energy storage facilities are the most important issues. For example, multiple publicinstitutions in Tohoku have begun to introduce PV power generation facilities and LiBs. Even inJapan, with its limited geographical area, there is about 400,000 hectares of fallow or abandonedland. About 30% of energy demand could be met simply by installing PV power generation panelson this land. The power generated by solar cells fluctuates with the weather, and as a result it willgradually become necessary to install nearby energy storage facilities.
During my research for this report, I was able to see outstanding technology and meet amazingresearchers and engineers at every stage of the Japanese LiBs supply chain. In strategically nurturing this new industry, an extremely important issue will be how to ensure competitiveness throughout the long supply chain—which extends from the procurement of raw materials for LiBs to the construction of energy management systems. A general trading company has a significant role to play in this regard, and moving forward I would like to see ITOCHU tackle these issues on Social System Design a companywide basis.
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