QUT researchers have created Australia’s first pilot facility to produce commercial-grade lithium-ion  batteries, which they say could kick-start a local manufacturing industry.

The facility at QUT in Brisbane contains Australia’s only low humidity electro-manufacturing dry rooms, meaning it’s the only facility in the country capable of creating the batteries.

According to Professor Peter Talbot from QUT’s Institute for Future Environments, the batteries being produced are based on commercial batteries similar to those used in Tesla cars.

“Importantly, as part of this project we identified the best lithium-based powders to use to create a battery of the highest energy-efficiency standards possible,” Professor Talbot said.

“The powder is a combination of lithium and other compounds. We tested various compositions of chemicals until we were satisfied that we had achieved the best powder possible.

“Our process enables us to rapidly test and prototype rechargeable lithium-ion batteries of various shapes and sizes.”

He said the research could be used to spark a local manufacturing industry.

“This process could be automated to enable Australia to have a competitive advantage in a manufacturing space that is currently dominated by China.

“As the middle class in the ASEAN region grows, so too will the demand for lithium-ion battery operated goods. As more and more vehicles in the future are manufactured to run on battery power, the development of longer-lasting batteries will be crucial to a vehicle’s overall efficiency and appeal to consumers.”

Australia currently sits on the largest deposit of lithium in the world, with former UNFCCC head Christina Figueres recently telling a Sydney audience this could be key to the country’s future prosperity in a low-carbon world.

Professor Talbot said the facility could “value-add” to the mining industry, with miners being able to have their materials validated at the plant.

He also said the technology and processes developed at QUT were suitable for use by any commercial battery manufacturing company, and the university would be able to develop batteries for a range of specific commercial applications.

“We will be able to purpose build the most efficient batteries possible to power any number of devices and products including some of QUT’s key robots.”

The battery is the outcome of a three-year $4 million project, funded by the Auto Cooperative Research Centre and conducted in conjunction with the Malaysia Automotive Institute.

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