Future-focused research centre for battery industry
The announcement of the Future Battery Industries Cooperative Research Centre will see researchers from Queensland University of Technology leading research to help propel Australia’s battery industry.
The Future Battery Industries Cooperative Research Centre (FBI CRC) is a research initiative striving to secure Australia’s position in the global battery value chain, an area that is currently undergoing rapid transformation. The industry-focused research partnership will involve 58 industry, government and research partners, with $25 million in funding from the federal government and more than $110 million from the research centre’s partners.
The centre will address industry-identified gaps in the industry’s value chain, focusing on three research programs: battery industry development; the processing of minerals; metals and materials for batteries as well as the development of a new battery storage system.
Based at Curtin University, the FBI CRC will fund 40 PhD students. Professor Peter Talbot (pictured) from Queensland University of Technology’s (QUT’s) Institute for Future Environments, who last year produced Australia’s first lithium-ion battery at QUT’s pilot plant precinct at Banyo, will lead research into battery materials and storage system development.
The QUT Power Engineering Group will be involved in activities around developing batteries into the grid and connecting to remote communities and industries. QUT will also contribute relevant research expertise in business innovation, industry transformation and socioeconomic research.
Prof Talbot said battery technology was vital, giving the example of a $2000 smartphone that was just a brick without a battery or an electric car that could not leave the driveway without an energy storage system. He commented that Australia has the resources and skills to produce the ‘whole picture’ of battery technology.
“A battery industry for Australia can go from mining, to usage and even to export,” he said. “Battery technologies give you energy security. Storage capability allows you to call on renewable energy any time of the day or night.
“The CRC will be looking at doing it all in Australia — mine it, value add it, produce the components, make the batteries as I’ve shown in the example at QUT with our plant, put together the storage packs and then integrate it all with the power companies. It’s about a whole industry,” Prof Talbot said.
FBI CRC Chair Tim Shanahan said the consortium had a six-year plan to address industry-identified gaps in the battery industry’s value chain.
“Given Australia’s abundant resources of battery minerals and world-class resources sector, the potential to promote the nation’s premium-quality, ethically sourced and safe battery minerals and metals through forensic-accredited and traceable sources will also be investigated, paving the way for Australia to position itself as a global leader in the international battery value chain,” Shanahan said.
Australia is the world’s largest miner of lithium. Exports of lithium have risen from $117 million in 2012 to $780 million in 2017 and are expected to rise to $1.1 billion by next year.
Nathan Cammerman, Executive Director of Queensland-based company Multicom Resources, said the research centre “sends a clear signal to our international partners, and the broader global market, that when it comes to raw material supply, battery technology development and its subsequent manufacture and deployment, Australia is clearly open for business”.
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