Building Strong Foundations for Future Technological Leadership
“In time,” the adage goes. In the fast-changing technological landscape of today, the biggest concern of any research is to develop technology at the right time so that it can be used opportunely when needed. Particularly in basic advance research, in consequence of the winner-take-all climate, one risks being a follower without developing technology ahead of other competitors. Hyundai Motor Group, having long understood the importance of basic advance research, is tirelessly expanding its technology leadership to secure world-leading innovation capabilities and to capture the future eco-friendly market.
FUTUREBuilding Technologies for Sustainable Growth
IFAT: Institute of Fundamental & Advanced Technology
Hyundai Motor Group established IFAT in 2019 to strengthen its R&D program for sustainable growth. The institute conducts such basic research as developing eco-friendly energy and innovative materials. The institute also serves to support the Group’s primary business, new technology research for the Group’s sustainable growth, and basic research to enhance those technologies in both automotive and future businesses.
In terms of organizational hierarchy, IFAT is a subsidiary of Hyundai Motor Group’s R&D Headquarters, being responsible for the earliest phases of product research: from fundamentals to applications with proof of concept for advanced technology development.
TECHNOLOGYIFAT Core Research Areas
IFAT’s core research has its focal points across five areas: ‘Future Energy’ comprising the research of storage and conversion of next-gen energy; ‘Catalysis & Computational Science’ comprising the study of eco-friendly catalysts as well as using electrochemical materials and methods of computational science to design new materials; ‘Green & Eco Technology’ which seeks to reduce the Group’s carbon footprint and to develop sustainable biomaterials and hydrogen-based energy systems; ‘Innovative Materials and Process’ comprising the research of cutting-edge materials and production process innovations like 3D printing in preparation for vehicle electrification and automation; and ‘Electronic Devices,’ which includes the research of semiconductors for automobiles and micro/nano sensors for high-performance electronic devices.
KEY POINT1. Future Energy
Our research in this area is focused on developing batteries that power eco-friendly cars as well as high-efficiency solar cells; this research is expected to serve as the basis for next-gen technologies in energy storage and conversion.
We are developing a battery system that transcends the limits of the lithium-ion battery. The goal is to utilize high-capacity lithium metal to create a lithium-metal battery whose energy density exceeds 1,000Wh/L. We’re also exploring lithium-air battery technologies for alternative ways to maximize the energy density and minimize the cost.
We are researching and developing transparent solar cells that can serve as window glass not only for cars but also for buildings. Another project is developing high-efficiency solar cells with a 50% increase in output relative to the existing ones.
2. Catalysis and Computational Science
Catalysts are substances that make the chemical reactions more efficient, used for a wide variety of processes underlying the car’s mechanics. We use advanced methods in computational science to develop electrocatalysts and aftertreatment catalysts as well as next-gen materials that help us produce sustainable energy.
We are researching with a goal to drastically reduce the use of the platinum catalyst currently in use for the fuel cell MEA (Membrane Electrode Assembly); to that end we are doing some fundamental research for developing an alloy catalyst that is both high-efficiency and high-durability. There are also plans to do basic research on new electrochemical systems beyond the fuel cell.
With the increasingly strict emission regulations being set in North America(SULEV) and Europe (EU7/RDE), developing new aftertreatment catalysts has become crucial. To be one step ahead of those regulations, we are seeking to create an aftretreatment catalyst system with near-zero emissions of harmful substances, which will thus minimize the exhaust gas emissions of internal combustion engine vehicles.
Using computers can drastically speed up new material development. We use the methods of computational science to analyze the interactive characteristics of materials at nano levels, which help us efficiently develop essential materials for electrification, including those for batteries, motors, and electrochemical catalysts. We are also dedicating resources to more basic fields of research—algorithms, quantum computing, and AI—that will underlie the electric systems of future.
3. Green & Eco Technology
This research area includes developing technologies for carbon emission reduction and biofuels, as well as fundamental research for materials like carbon fiber.
Carbon Capture & Utilization
Carbon emission reduction technology captures the CO2 made in the production process or existingin the atmosphere and converts it into materials like carbon fiber or polyurethane. Or, the CO2 itself can be reused for carbonating or for making dry ice.
CSCR (Combined Steam and CO2 Reforming with Methane) /e-fuel
Another technology in development uses CO2 while generating hydrogen fuel; compared to other methods of generation, it manages to substantially reduce the CO2 byproduct. A variant of this technology also seeks to develop carbon-neutral fuel such as e-Gasoline and e-Diesel.
Generating and Storing Hydrogen Fuel
Developing the infrastructure for a hydrogen-fueled society requires cheap, sustainable methods for generating and storing hydrogen. To that end, we are researching SOEC (solid-oxide electrolyzer cells) technology, which should reduce production costs by approximately 35%, and are developing new ways to store hydrogen in both liquid and solid forms, which would increase both the amount and stability of storage. Doing so would not only reduce costs of logistics but also help establish a circular economy for the industry and the society at large.
LCA (Life Cycle Assessment)
Managing the CO2 emissions for the environment requires precise measurement and analysis of the CO2 emitted across all stages of manufacture and production. LCA performs the comprehensive analysis of CO2 emissions and reuse that gives us direction in evaluating carbon-neutral technologies or in forming strategies for emission reduction.
4. Innovative Materials and Process
Research in this area seeks to develop innovative materials and processes that will help bring about mobility’s future.
We are building superconducting materials based on cryogenic liquefied gases for use in developing next-gen mobility systems like the UAM (Urban Air Mobility).
In the same vein, we have engaged in basic research for Spintronics materials, which have a wide range of use in various technologies essential for mobility, like AI, sensing, and vehicle security.
Finally, we’re also doing research on the materials for radiative cooling, pressure-sensitive thermal control, and carbon-based energy, all to increase our vehicles’ energy efficiency.
Precision in parts manufacture requires the nano-level control of surface microstructures. Our research in Plasma-Enhanced Chemical Vapor Deposition (PECVD) and Atomic Layer Deposition (ALD) has allowed us to do just this, contributing to the development of better batteries, fuel cells, and sensors.
The important aspects of 3D printing are size and speed. We are working to overcome the limitations of existing 3D printers by developing high-speed, large-area, composite-material 3D printing technologies. Additionally, incorporating AI into 3D printing can help optimize parts design.
5. Electronic Devices
Electronic devices R&D includes efforts to develop the next generation of high-performance, high-efficiency semiconductors and sensors.
Next-gen Power Semiconductors
Electric Vehicle(EV) consume a lot of electricity, and it is the Power Module that helps the vehicle efficiently make use of the battery’s electricity. Power semiconductors are the crux of that module. We have increased our EVs’ energy efficiency by replacing the Silicon used for the existing power semiconductors with new materials such as Silicon Carbide (SiC) and Gallium Oxide(Ga2O3).
Directional microphones based on the MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical-system) technology are being used for the infotainment system as well as active noise reduction systems. Moreover, the hydrogen sensor used for detecting hydrogen leakage in fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) can also be made more compact and cost-efficient with MEMS.
More in-depth research is planned for several other projects: nano-devices that can be used in sensors for next-gen autonomous vehicles, wavelength-variable laser technologies, and sub-terahertz imaging technology (ultra-high-resolution radars).