The use of ceramics in glass for energy harvesting and
storage is set to grow over the next few years, attendees at
the Ceramics Expo held in Cleveland, Ohio heard in
According to Susan Troiler-McKinstry, professor of Ceramic
Science and Engineering at Penn State University, 43% of the
world’s EVs were bought in 2014, fuelling an
interest in downsizing energy components by increasing energy
"Electro ceramics are of interest for solar,
mechanical and thermal energy harvesting," Troiler-McKinstry
This, she said, means that industrial mineral-consuming
industries such as thin glass are being developed for their
high dialectric energy storage and stabilising properties.
Additional developments in ceramic energy storage technology
are becoming necessary for use in solid state capacitors,
electrolytic capacitors, ultra-capacitors, Li-ion batteries,
Pb-acid batteries and fuel cells.
"High power electronic inverter circuits are needed for
power modules, photovoltaics, wind power, EVs and so on, and
the temperature ranges for each technology may be different,"
Ceramics in Li-ion batteries
The main components of Li-ion batteries
are the anode, cathode, electrolyte and separator.
(Argonne National Laboratory, via Morgan Advanced
Ceramics, Ceramics Expo 2016)
Ceramics used in Li-ion battery separators, both in ion
conducting and ion permeable applications are a growth market
that many companies are not yet targeting, according to Richard
Clark, strategic business development specialist for Morgan
In the year 2000, the ion permeable separator market
was essentially composed of 100% polyolefin, Clark told
delegates. By 2015 however, ceramic materials accounted for 44%
of the market by area.
"This shift is mainly based on a drive for safety and market
changes in product type and cell size," Clark said.
The main components of Li-ion batteries are comprised of the
anode, cathode, electrolyte and separator. The separator has
three main jobs; it serves as a barrier to electrodes, a window
to ions and a reservoir for the electrolyte.
Ideally, the separator would take up as little space as
possible, take up minimal space and cost less.
"Separators also play a key role in battery performance and
safety, and a ceramic coating on the separator can help to
address some of the safety issues faced by Li-ion batteries,"
"Currently the market is worth around $500m right now and is
heading towards becoming a billion dollar market for ceramics,"
As a result, the last five years have seen an increase in
activity in the sector, with current patent activity in the
Li-ion separator sector "than ever before".
"There are a lot of different combinations of material, if
you start combining these things in a market
that’s growing and provides opportunity,
you’ll see a lot of very clever and innovative
things happening," Clark said.
Ceramics in Li-ion battery
In 2000, the ion permeable separator
market was 100% polyolefin. By 2015 ceramics
accounted for 44% by area. Source: Morgan Advanced
Zirconia in electrolytes
Meanwhile in electrolyte material, Zhien Liu, development
lead for fuel cell development at LG Fuel Cell Systems,
fingered stabilised zirconia as the top candidate for the job,
owing to its material stability at fuel cell operating
"In all fuel cell systems we use all ceramics, there is not
metallic material, which is limited due to the oxidation issue
at high temperatures and also the chrome contamination issue to
the cathode," Liu told attendees.
Stabilised zirconia also has advantages as an electrolyte
material owing to its good long term reliability for a
commercial product and the ability to select different
compositions to meet conductivity requirements by
However, the long term stability of electrolyte material is
still an issue, Liu said, and further developments are needed
with challenges such as the accumulation of free MnOx in
LSM-based cathodes near the electrolyte interface during
fuel cell operation, and the change in cathode microstructure
after two year operation.