Interview with Dr. Falko Schappacher

"Battery cell production only succeeds through cooperation"

MEET Director Dr. Falko Schappacher
© Schappacher
MEET Director Dr. Falko Schappacher

From materials science to battery cell technology and -production up to production technologies and systems as well as the value-added cycle of batteries – the scientific team of MEET Battery Research Center at University of Münster contributes extensive know-how to the Research Fab Battery Cells (FFB) of Fraunhofer Institute for Production Technology IPT. Together with other leading experts of battery- and production technology in Germany, the MEET researchers led by Prof. Martin Winter and Dr. Falko Schappacher are pooling their expertise in the FFB for the benefit of Germany as a business location.

Dr. Falko Schappacher, Commercial and Technical Director at MEET Battery Research Center, tells us in the following interview why battery cell production can only succeed through intensive cooperation and what role electrochemistry and materials science play in production.

Dr. Schappacher, how are scientists at MEET Battery Research Center involved in setting up the Research Fab Battery Cells?

The MEET team specializes in battery cell technology and production with a particular focus on chemical processes, materials and properties. The basis is formed by our research results on battery cell production on a laboratory and pilot scale, cell design as well as cell characterization. Since 2011, we have had different battery cell production lines at MEET, where, for example, innovative approaches for mixing, coating, cutting and assembling battery cells are being developed. In addition to established processes for lithium-ion batteries, we are working on setting up a continuous production line for the manufacture of lithium metal or solid-state batteries. This knowledge is incorporated in the Research Fab Battery Cells – both in strategic decisions within the Executive Board and in operational issues such as laboratory planning.

In Münster, there is a cooperation between the Alexianer Werkstätten and the Re-search Fab Battery Cells. What is it about?

In the »FFB Workspace« at »AlexProWerk«, a sample production line is being set up, which initially maps the process from mixing to the coated electrode and forms part of the planned manufacturing operation of the Research Fab Battery Cells. In this »FFB Workspace«, a clean room, the FFB team is developing the electrode production. As part of the work in the »AlexProWerk«, the first machines of the future FFB will also be put into operation. In addition, employees of the Alexianer Werkstätten will be trained to work on the sample production line.

Cooperation is an important keyword for the Research Fab Battery Cells on several levels. It is an offer to the entire research landscape in Germany: small and medium-sized enterprises, but also large companies and research institutions can use the innovation labs and modules that are being created. There they can advance their innovations to a higher technology readiness level (TRL) and test, implement and optimize them in a near-series production environment for battery cells. The FFB team supports this with its knowledge. Science flows directly into practice and vice versa.

And which scientific areas are particularly important for battery cell production?

In addition to battery cell and production research, materials science also plays a crucial role. A battery cell consists of materials; the cost of materials accounts for 70 to 80 percent of the total cost of the cell. In production, on the one hand, they define the environmental conditions during factory planning: many materials have different, sometimes special requirements for the laboratories in which they are produced or processed. We must take this into account. On the other hand, the materials used significantly determine the electrochemical properties of a battery cell, such as the performance and thus the power of a cell, and influence aspects such as reliability and safety. This makes them one of the most important optimization parameters in production. However, the decisive factor for success in battery cell production is interdisciplinarity: potential can only be exploited through intensive cooperation between natural sciences, engineering and economics.