12 October 2020
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As the only company in the world, Brainport Eindhoven-based SALD has the expertise to scale up the spatial Atomic Layer Deposition (sALD) technology to high-volume production quickly and reliably.
This means that SALD offers a concrete answer to the challenges that, among others, battery manufacturers and their customers are facing. SALD’s layers can improve the current and next generation of batteries by percentages. Moreover, the solid-state batteries of the future cannot do without SALD technology. Achieving a fast process time at the lowest possible costs is essential for SALD’s success. Just like close cooperation with partner companies and organizations in a Battery Competence Center.
SALD's aim is to bring the unique technology from laboratory to factory within a relatively short time. The possibilities the technology offers; the application of ultra-thin and uniform nano layers on large surfaces, is of great importance to the global high-tech industry. Because the technology is suitable for combining all kinds of chemicals and substances and thus applying nano layers on different substrates including glass, plastics and wafers, the possibilities are endless. The markets on which SALD focuses are therefore broad.
There are also countless possible applications in the medical world and the food industry because packaging with sALD can be cost-efficiently made airtight, at a high speed. It significantly extends shelf life and is more durable. You can then make transparent packaging without the aluminum layer which is difficult to recycle. And finally, sALD can be used in the textile market because it changes the properties of textile fibers, creating new application possibilities there too.”
SALD CTO, Erik Kremers adds: “Often you create functions, which comes down to separation or conduction. Many different applications are possible and this diversity is reflected by our customers. In the field of batteries, our customers range from research institutes researching new battery materials to battery (cell) manufacturers and manufacturers of electrically powered cars.”
“Spatial ALD builds on the well-known Atomic Layer Deposition process, a technology that is best known for the production of computer chips and which has led to the success of chip supplier ASMI,” continues Peter. “In this process, stagnant substrates are brought into contact with various reactive gases in a vacuum device. In this way, atom thin layers are applied one after the other with high precision. The disadvantage is that the time-separated ALD process works slowly; only when one layer is completely ready the gas can be applied for the next layer. Ten years ago TNO scientists came up with an innovative solution for this. They developed a technique in which an advanced gas deposition head applies the layers directly one after the other to a fast-moving material. That is called spatial ALD (sALD) which no longer needs a vacuum."
“Proximity to good business partners in the Brainport ecosystem makes it much easier for us to create solutions that have never been created before,” says Erik. “Real collaboration is essential in this respect. For example, in the past year we succeeded in greatly improving the deposition head with which the sALD gas separation is realized. We have developed our latest version of stainless steel deposition heads through an MRE collaboration project with knowledge from the ecosystem. This results in a longer production time without cleaning and a higher uptime, which is needed to meet industry standards.”
“So far sALD technology has only been used in the lab environment, but for the industry the technology has to work 24/7 and in a large format. This takes a lot of work. The innovation of the head has been an absolute breakthrough. That head has now been constructed modularly and has also become scalable. This makes it possible to go to roll-2-roll processes that you need in battery production. Then you have reached the point that the costs per m2 are attractive enough. ”
“That is also what we need for success,” Erik adds, “collaboration and the facilities needed for the development. In the battery world you cannot do everything on your own. That is far too knowledge and cost intensive. Together you have to make and defend a proposition. Also to obtain the necessary funding. Alone, you are simply too small to qualify for funding, for example. A Battery Competence Center in which Dutch companies, knowledge institutes and governments work together and where you have all the equipment needed to make batteries so that you can quickly demonstrate improvement is enormously valuable. We must join forces so that we can act together towards the large gigawatt battery producers. You only get a battery manufacturer to speak with you after you have demonstrated that your technology works. In Brainport Eindhoven and other parts of the Netherlands, various parties are working on innovative battery technology. Together we can make it a smashing success. ”