There is an aluminum alloy for electric vehicles in development that dramatically improves thermal stability, which could provide a safer environment for the battery.

A new mechanism ended up identified how the nanostructures inside aluminum alloys work and Dr. Hyeon-woo Son and his research team from the Department of Aluminum in the Advanced Metals Division at Korea Institute of Materials Science (KIMS) found the alloys they developed improved thermal stability by up to 140 percent compared to materials from leading overseas companies.

Existing aluminum battery enclosure materials continuously deteriorate due to the heat emitted by the battery, leading to a significantly increased the risk of accidents as electric vehicles age.

The newly developed aluminum alloy can enhance thermal stability by incorporating various trace elements to the existing 6000 series aluminum alloy, thereby delaying the thermal deterioration of enclosure materials due to heat generation.

To that end, the research team established a new database by introducing dozens of trace elements and analyzing nanostructures through state-of-the-art techniques such as transmission electron microscopy and 3D atom probe tomography. Based on this, they were able to confirm several elements can improve thermal stability.

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The aluminum alloy with thermal stability improvement technology can exhibit excellent properties in parts used for extended periods in high-temperature environments, such as electric vehicle battery enclosure materials or structural materials for supersonic aircraft. Traditional techniques for improving thermal stability typically end up confined to utilizing a database of elements long employed in aluminum alloys. This research is significant in that it expands the database of thermal stability enhancement techniques and introduces new directions for alloy design.

The electric vehicle battery enclosure material market could grow at an average annual rate of 8.4 percent, reaching $863.3 million by 2029 from $464.9 million in 2020. Presently, it trails behind overseas advanced companies in terms of technological competitiveness. However, local production through this technology could not only drive import substitution but also to facilitate exports.

“If the technology developed this time is commercialized, it will raise awareness of the necessity to develop high-value-added aluminum alloys, which currently lag behind those of overseas advanced companies, and at the same time,” Son said. “Additionally, overseas advanced companies, and at the same time, it will encourage domestic companies to more actively engage in research and development.”

There is an aluminum alloy for electric vehicles in development that dramatically improves thermal stability. In graphic above, there is microstructure growth inhibition technology through precipitate interface control.Source: Korea Institute of Materials Science (KIMS)

This research was conducted as part of the fundamental project of the Korea Institute of Materials Science and the National Laboratory (N-Lab.) project funded by the Ministry of Science and ICT.

As a result of this research, the team has published three SCI-level papers and filed two patents. They have completed fundamental research on aluminum alloy manufacturing technology with excellent thermal stability and are now conducting follow-up research with the aim of advancing the technology through applied research and transferring it to domestic aluminum battery enclosure material manufacturers.

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