In recent years, the environmental and health concerns surrounding per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) have garnered significant attention. PFAS, a group of man-made chemicals widely used in various industries, have come under scrutiny due to their persistence, bioaccumulative nature, and potential adverse effects on human health. Recognizing the urgency to address these concerns, regulatory bodies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) have implemented and proposed new restrictions on PFAS. These restrictions are set to impact several sectors, including the battery industry, where PFAS are used in several battery materials. PFAS can be present in some electrolytes and separators, however the most prevalent is the production of binders such as polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF), which is used in all conventional Li-ion batteries. This blog post aims to shed light on the latest PFAS restrictions and their implications for the battery industry.
Understanding PFAS and their Risks
PFAS are a family of thousands of synthetic chemicals known for their strong carbon-fluorine bonds, making them resistant to heat, water, and oil. They have been widely used in various applications, including firefighting foams, non-stick coatings, water-repellent fabrics, and even in the production of certain types of batteries. However, research has revealed that PFAS are persistent in the environment and can accumulate in human and animal tissues, leading to potential health risks such as developmental issues, immune system dysfunction, and increased cancer risk.
EPA's Actions and Restrictions
Recognizing the urgency of the PFAS issue, the EPA has taken several steps to address these concerns. In 2019, the agency issued a lifetime health advisory for two specific PFAS compounds, namely perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS), limiting their combined concentration in drinking water to 70 parts per trillion. Additionally, the EPA is actively pursuing the designation of PFAS as hazardous substances, which would trigger further regulations and cleanup efforts. This could lead to the restriction of PVDF since the EPA previously categorized PVDF as a PFAS during its initial stages of research.
Proposed ECHA Restrictions and the Battery Industry
In parallel, the ECHA has proposed strict measures to restrict the use of PFAS within the European Union. Under the proposed regulations, certain PFAS, including PVDF, would be subjected to authorization. The ECHA Restriction Report specifically mentions that the production of PVDF will not be exempt from upcoming regulations. PVDF is a commonly used binder in conventional battery production, providing adhesive properties that help hold battery components together. Since both the ECHA and EPA have linked PVDF to PFAS, the agencies’ pending restrictions would have a large impact on the battery industry.
The restrictions on PFAS, including PVDF, pose both challenges and opportunities for the battery industry. On the one hand, the industry will face the need to find suitable alternatives to PFAS-based binders that ensure both performance and safety. Researchers and manufacturers will have to invest in innovative materials and processes to maintain the desired qualities of battery production without compromising on environmental or health concerns. This could lead to advancements in sustainable binder materials, opening doors to greener battery technologies.
On the other hand, the transition away from PFAS binders may require significant adjustments to existing battery production processes. Manufacturers will need to evaluate and optimize their manufacturing techniques to accommodate alternative binders. This transition period may result in short-term disruptions and additional costs for the industry.
One way battery manufacturers can avoid this disruption is by implementing Nanoramic’s Neocarbonix at the Core electrode technology into their existing production processes. Neocarbonix replaces PFAS binders (PVDF) with a 3D nanoscopic binding structure, which serves both as electronically conductive network and mechanical framework that holds the electrode together. By eliminating PVDF, Neocarbonix enables high-performance, low-cost electric vehicle batteries with a reduced carbon footprint, all while complying with the latest PFAS restrictions. Neocarbonix is a drop-in technology and compatible with existing battery manufacturing equipment, easing the transition to PFAS-free production.
The latest restrictions imposed by the EPA and proposed by the ECHA on PFAS represent crucial steps in addressing the environmental and health risks associated with these persistent chemicals. While these restrictions will undoubtedly impact the battery industry, they also present an opportunity for innovation and the development of more sustainable battery materials, such as Neocarbonix at the Core. As the industry adapts to these new regulations, it will be essential for manufacturers to experiment with new battery materials as they juggle meeting performance demands, minimizing environmental impact, and safeguarding human health.