Future-proofing Li-ion Battery Production With Waterless Cathode Manufacturing Process
Sylvatex Inc. aims to future-proof lithium-ion battery manufacturing with its newly developed low-cost and sustainability-focused cathode manufacturing process.
Sylvatex Inc. recently announced the development of a new method for producing electric vehicle (EV)-grade cathode active material (CAM) to reduce costs, energy consumption, and the overall carbon footprint of battery production. Lowering the cost of CAM is expected to liberate lithium-ion battery (LIB) production and build momentum behind the energy transition.
Sylvatex introduces a new method for producing EV-grade CAM. Image used courtesy of SVX
The Electrification Boom
During this century, the climate crisis has taken center stage, with governmental bodies and businesses worldwide investing in green technologies to welcome the much-needed energy transition. Reinventing how people travel and use and store energy has been at the forefront of electrification efforts and what SVX Founder and CEO Virginia Irwin Klausmeier calls the “electrification boom.”
According to Future Business Insights, the global electric vehicle battery market is expected to rise from an estimated $27.30 billion in 2021 to $154.90 billion in 2028 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 28.1%. To keep up with the increase in demand for EVs on the road, battery technology needs to keep up the pace concerning production volumes But how can this be done while conserving energy and meeting sustainability goals?
For SVX, the lithium-ion battery (currently considered the gold standard for EVs and energy storage) and one of its components became the point of focus.
“With further research, we realized that CAM was the bottleneck inhibiting the electrification boom from both an economic and environmental perspective, as it makes up over 50% of the cost and carbon footprint of the LIB,” said Klausmeier in an interview with EE Power.
Sylvatex has devised a method of manufacturing EV-grade cathode active material (CAM) that is expected to reduce its cost by 25%, plant capital costs by 40%, and energy usage by 80%.
How Does Cathode Active Material Production Work?
Cathode Active Material production is a complex process with various steps, including co-precipitation and calcination. Co-precipitation typically involves the precipitation of a soluble compound (such as metal) in the form of hydroxide from a salt precursor. This process of leaching out the metal is usually helped along by the presence of a base in a solvent. Calcination is a process involving the application of heat to a particular compound or material to purify it.
“The current process to prepare cathode precursors uses transition metal sulfate precursors and hydroxide-driven precipitation, the addition of lithium salt using solid-state mixing, and high-temperature calcination over extended timeframes,” Klausmeier said.
Vials of CAM precursors, including NMC. Image used courtesy of SVX
According to Klausmeier, this traditional way of producing CAM is not as efficient as it could be, with around 60% of precursor material being converted to waste.
To improve the process of CAM production, SVX focuses on producing high-quality, high-nickel cathodes using green chemistry.
To do this, metal oxides or recycled Nickel Cobalt Manganese (NMC) oxides and lithium hydroxide are added together in a single reactor. Introducing flexibility in material inputs for the CAM production process helps to provide a buffer against any supply chain disruption and reduce geo-political unrest tied up with sourcing materials.
According to SVX, around 20 billion gallons of water would be needed each year to satisfy the needs of CAM production. This is equivalent to water consumed by 182,000 homes in the U.S.
To reduce capital costs and make CAM production more sustainable, SVX has found a way of eliminating the need for water in the process. The company has also reduced energy consumption by 80%.
Scaling Up CAM Production
SVX secured $8.4 million in a Series A funding round led by Catalus Capital. Amplify Capital and How Women Invest also took part.
“Fortunately, we can take advantage of non-dilutive funding through government grants from the U.S. Department of Energy and National Science Foundation that simultaneously give us access to world-class battery experts at Argonne National Lab and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab,” Klausmeier said.
The Founder and CEO of SVX, Virginia Irwin Klausmeier. Image used courtesy of SVX
Klausmeier told EE Power that SVX’s labs can make hundreds of grams of CAM across a couple of days. The next step is to work with “battery cells/pack manufacturers, and electric vehicle automakers to assess materials. This process would include Sylvatex sending CAM samples to these companies to qualify the materials and our specifications. As these materials are qualified, we would move into a collaboration agreement to work together to scale our material production further to produce metric tons of CAM.”