Cell Fabrication Facility
Argonne process engineer Bryant Polzin fills an 18650 lithium-ion battery cell with electrolyte using semi-automated equipment at Argonne's Cell Fabrication Facility.
Argonne's Cell Fabrication Facility is a climate-controlled lab that allows scientists to manufacture, for their own use, full-size prototype battery cells (both pouch and 18650 cells) and battery electrodes.
Prior to having this facility, Argonne researchers were only able to fabricate very small coin cells using laboratory glove boxes (sealed units that allow researchers to manipulate materials in a contained environment). When Argonne wanted to create larger prototypes for more detailed testing, the laboratory was forced to go to battery manufacturers for the production of pouch and 18650 cells. However, for the fabrication process to be worthwhile, manufacturers would require large quantities of the prototype cells to be produced, which was not costeffective or convenient for Argonne.
"Having [the capability to make prototypes] allows us to evaluate the novel battery chemistries we create in our R&D laboratories in a more practical and timely manner," said chemical engineer Andy Jansen. "If we like what we see, we will scale it up in the fabrication facility."
After fabrication, the prototype cells are then evaluated for performance, battery life and safety in Argonne's state-of-the-art battery testing facilities.
Outfitted with pilot-scale production equipment and cutting-edge dry room technology, Argonne's Cell Fabrication Facility is one of a few of its kind in the country.
Because moisture is detrimental to batteries, the facility was constructed as a climate-controlled dry room. A controller constantly monitors the humidity of the room and guarantees a dew point (the temperature at which dew forms) below -42°C with up to six people working inside.
"Moisture can cause an electrolyte to become acidic, which can destroy the battery," Jansen said. "To ensure quality, fabrication needs to be done in a controlled environment like this."