SDK to expand capacity for carbon nano-fibre; for use in auto LIBs


Demand for lithium ion batteries (LIBs) materials has been growing rapidly. This is because demand for large LIBs is increasing mainly for automotive applications, in addition to demand for small LIBs for smartphones. In particular, the electric vehicle (EV) market in China is expanding substantially, while EVs are being launched in Europe at an accelerated pace due to tighter control on CO2 emissions. Thus, the LIB market is expected to continue its steady growth.

Thus, Japanese chemicals firm Showa Denko (SDK) is expanding production capacity for VGCF: carbon nanofibre that is added to cathodes and anodes of LIBs to improve electrical conductivity. Specifically, SDK will gradually increase its VGCF production capacity at Kawasaki Plant, Kanagawa Prefecture, from 200 tonnes/year at present to 300 tonnes/year by the end of 2017, to meet growing demand for large LIBs used in cars.

While SDK strengthened its LIB material supply system from time to time in response to market growth, the company has decided to further expand VGCF production capacity because the current market growth exceeds original forecast. The production capacity is to be increased, as a first step, to 250 tonnes/year in the first half of 2017. Then, confirming the market trends, SDK will increase the capacity further to 300 tonnes/year by the end of 2017.

VGCF, which stands for vapour grown carbon fibre, is used as electrically-conductive additive in LIB cathodes and anodes. LIBs swell and shrink after repeated charges and discharges, resulting in the loss of contact between active materials. Electrically-conductive additives connect active materials, reducing deterioration of batteries. Compared with grain-type additives, VGCF is said to give better performance because it consists of fibres with high dispersion. Thus, addition of a small amount of VGCF helps increase the capacity and extend the life of LIBs. VGCF also has high thermal conductivity, promoting heat dissipation from electrodes and enhancing the safety of LIBs.

Under the new medium-term business plan "Project 2020+," the Showa Denko Group classifies the LIB materials business in the "Advantage-establishing" category, aiming to increase its annual sales to 30 billion yen in 2018. In this business, the Group offers SCMG anode material, SPALF aluminium laminated film for packaging, SDX carbon-coated aluminum foil, and Polysol binder for anode, in addition to VGCF.


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