Entrepreneurs perfect the solid-state battery

26.04.2018 von Benjamin Haerdle in Featured, Research
Employees at enspring GmbH on the Weinberg Campus are on the lookout for the ideal material for capacitors and lithium-ion batteries. They are able to take advantage of the excellent working environment and the university’s scientific expertise. Falk Lange, a PhD student at MLU and the founder of enspring, now also wants to gain a foothold in China. Hence, the story of enspring GmbH is also the story of basic researchers who have become business people active on the international stage.
Hartmut Leipner (right) and enspring employee Robert Schlegel examine a new sample coating.
Hartmut Leipner (right) and enspring employee Robert Schlegel examine a new sample coating. (Foto: Michael Deutsch)

The centrepiece of enspring is located in room 1.062 at the Technology and Founders’ Centre III. In the centre of the room stands a coating machine that is used to apply and vaporise suspensions on a thin plate. “We use artificially made polymers in the suspensions which contain nanoparticles from ceramic compounds,” explains Robert Schlegel, a coating expert at enspring. The suspension is then applied to an aluminium film and dried. The aim is to combine in components the benefits of two different materials in the form of films, enabling the highest amount of energy to be stored in the smallest area possible. The result will be high-performance capacitors that can be used, for example, in the automotive and energy industries.

Five scientists have been working on this task since enspring GmbH was founded last year in Halle. The company is a subsidiary of engroup, whose other member is in Munich. Founded by Thomas Plaschko and Egon Schubert in 2013, enfas was the first company of the group to be founded. The company advises automotive and energy sector customers in planning and developing new system solutions. “The company focuses on customized electronics for the automotive and energy industry, and on basic, application-oriented research into solid-state capacitors and solid-state lithium-ion batteries,” says enspring’s managing director, Thomas Plaschko.

Plenty of Expertise at the University

In order to expand the group’s portfolio, enspring GmbH was founded as a quasi-research and development department for capacitors and batteries. The fact that the company is located in Halle and not in Munich is no accident. Before venturing onto the free market, Falk Lange worked as a research assistant at the Interdisciplinary Centre for Material Sciences (IZM) at the University of Halle. There he conducted research for Dr Hartmut Leipner on super capacitors as part of a million-euro project funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. “The decision to found enfas and enspring was significantly marked by the urge to quickly and efficiently advance development,” says founder Falk Lange, who continues to work on his PhD at MLU.

The proximity to MLU was an important factor for the success of the spin-off. “The university has a lot of competence in the area of material research,” explains the 31-year-old. This is a key to the development of our products. MLU researcher Hartmut Leipner knows how important this link to the university is: “Companies, like enspring, can take advantage of important services offered by the IZM.” The university provides expertise in measuring technology and material science as well as access to its equipment. It facilitates joint doctoral dissertations whose findings can benefit companies. 

The start-up enspring is one of around 100 companies currently located at the technology park. Biochemists, biotechnologists, material scientists, pharmacists, as well as agricultural and nutritional scientists conduct research side-by-side. enspring also has an interdisciplinary way of working. Physicists, chemists and material scientists tinker alongside process technicians and electrical engineers. “This interdisciplinary collaboration is important because problems can be discussed from multiple angles and solutions can be found more quickly,” says enspring employee Robert Schlegel.

Next Step: China

enspring is still unable to implement industrial processes on a large scale in the lab. This requires large-scale coating equipment. Therefore, employees are first working on improving the properties of the film – and are keeping an eye out for cooperation partners, for example in the area of material analyses. The chances are good. “The sector of automotive suppliers in Central Germany has a good development trajectory, which is an important locational factor for us,” adds Schlegel.

The founders’ attention has also turned to global business. Last year the group of companies gained a foothold in China with the foundation of a new development and production site. enfas Technology aims to provide local German customers in China with its expertise, as well as offer its own storage and charging systems. “China represents one of the largest sales markets for our product portfolio,” says founder Falk Lange, who, himself, moved to Nanjing, a city with five million inhabitants. An on-site presence makes sense when entering this market. “It secures us long-term access to foreign markets and enables us to gain access to local know-how,” says the company boss. He will also personally benefit from his stay in the Far East. “This undertaking will provide me with a wealth of experience”, says Lange.

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