AMMPI to collaborate with KITECH to build 3D printed zinc-ion rechargeable batteries

AMMPI and KEITECH meeting

Researchers at UNT’s Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Processes Institute (AMMPI) are collaborating with their counterparts at the Korea Institute of Industrial Technology (KITECH) to build 3D printed zinc-ion rechargeable batteries, the first project as part of what they expect will be a productive, ongoing relationship.

KITECH supports small to midsize companies in the manufacturing industry in Korea. They maintain 10 research centers worldwide. One of the facilities in Korea, the Siheung Ppuri Technical Supporting Center, focuses on 3D printing and areas of research that closely align with research being conducted at AMMPI at UNT.

“The Siheung Ppuri Technical Supporting Center group photois focused on joining, coating, additive manufacturing, energy and corrosion,” says Wonbong Choi, professor of materials science and engineering at UNT. “These areas are very well matched with the work we do at AMMPI.”

A joint workshop was held in Siheung, Gyeonggi, South Korea in December, when representatives from UNT and KITECH signed a memorandum of understanding to facilitate collaboration in scientific and industrial research, development and innovation. The workshop was the first of a series of events planned that will include researchers from both institutes.

This first joint research project to develop the 3D printed zinc-ion rechargeable batteries is originating with a team at Discovery Park led by Choi. 

“This is a next-generation battery,” Choi says, adding that zinc-ion batteries are more stable than lithium-ion batteries and much less expensive.

The primary zinc-ion battery is currently used for watch and hearing aid batteries, but a rechargeable zinc-ion battery has not yet entered the market.

The team is developing a flexible, porous material that can only be made with 3D printing. The porous materials will increase the surface area and allow the battery to hold a longer charge. 

“We can control the pore size and pore density with 3D printing,” Choi says. “3D printing allows for higher surface area which makes for higher energy storage in the same dimension.”

The project is funded in part by UNT seed grants. KITECH is providing matching funds and in-kind contributions, including the use of KITECH state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities and living expenses for UNT graduate students and professors who will visit KITECH this summer. Students are developing the concept at UNT and will then test it at KITECH’s facilities in Korea.

“KITECH has a fantastic 3D printing infrastructure,” Choi says, adding, “UNT is bringing ideas and manpower.”

If successful, the team’s research could help enable the development of a zinc-ion battery to replace lithium batteries in electric vehicles and energy storages for back-up system. Choi hopes this initial project will lead to significant government funding for continued work in this area.

KITECH researchers plan to visit UNT in coming months and bring industry partners to explore collaborative projects with other AMMPI researchers. Other projects for mutual interest and synergy of their research are under discussion.