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Altech beefs up WA lab in battery technology race

Altech Chemicals has expanded its research and development centre in WA in order to produce a new range of high-performance batteries using its innovative anode technology.

The company is looking to integrate its battery boosting Silumina Anodes mixture into the batteries’ graphite anode to produce a more powerful end product.

Late last year Altech announced its product could deliver batteries with a 30 per cent higher retention capacity over non-coated items.

Lithium-ion batteries generally face an up to 10 per cent reduction in energy capacity after their first recharge cycle. Test work completed by the company indicates the coating helps alleviate the decline, boosts battery performance and improves charging capabilities.

The company says its evaluations have so far centred around “coin cell” rechargeable lithium-ion batteries commonly used in small electronic devices such as remote controls and watches.

Despite the coin cells usefulness in the early rounds of testing, Altech believes a scale-up is required to assess the viability of its Silumina Anodes product in larger footprint devices – namely the electronic vehicle sector.

To help on the new front, the company’s newly developed research and development hub in Perth has been fitted with an in-house “pouch cell” production and testing facility.

The pouch cell is a larger-footprint device commonly used across a range of consumer, military and automotive applications.

Altech plans to assemble lithium-ion pouch cells at its plant and incorporate its Silumina Anodes product into the devices before evaluating the coated product’s performance.

Management hopes to repeat the solid results from its work on the coin cells into the company’s pouch cells. Given the devices are commonly used in larger footprint devices, the new product could firm up the use of Silumina Anodes in more lucrative industries.

Part of the plan also involves the construction of a 10,000-tonne-per-year Silumina Anodes pilot plant in the German State of Saxony. Altech hopes to use the plant to supply the product to Europe’s burgeoning electric vehicle market.

Through its 75 per cent-owned subsidiary Altech Industries Germany, the company has already executed two non-disclosure agreements with two vehicle producers in the country and one European-based battery company.

According to Altech, the key to its coating technology is high purity alumina made from a clay known as kaolin. Fortuitously, the company has its foot on plenty of the commodity at its Meckering deposit about 135km east of Perth.

The company also has an additional 125 million tonne deposit known as Kerrigan about 20km south of Hyden in WA.

If the company is able to integrate its Silumina Anodes product in larger footprint batteries it could be set for a big future, given electric vehicles are projected to command a US$210 billion-plus market by 2030, an increase of about US$150 billion on today’s figures.

Is your ASX-listed company doing something interesting? Contact: matt.birney@wanews.com.au

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