Innovative Materials Promise Advances in Li-Ion Batteries
From academia to industry, battery materials are seeing major developments across the board. This article discusses cathode research, the expansion of facilities for creating synthetic graphite, and new coating materials.
The escalating demand for electric vehicles and renewable energy storage solutions has catapulted battery materials into a critical position within the global energy landscape. Improvements in materials, sourcing, and manufacturing are all essential to driving the industry toward a more sustainable and affordable future.
EAM facility for research and development of Li-ion materials. Image used courtesy of EAM
Advancements in Cathode Materials for Lithium-Ion Batteries
Researchers at Hokkaido University and Kobe University have made a significant breakthrough in the synthesis of lithium cobalt oxide (LiCoO2), a vital cathode material for lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries.
Traditionally, creating this compound has required temperatures above 800°C and 10 to 20 hours. Instead, the team has developed a method to synthesize LiCoO2 at temperatures as low as 300°C in just 30 minutes.
The reaction pathway of the new synthesis process. Image used courtesy of Maeda et al.
This innovation is rooted in the hydroflux process, which uses cobalt hydroxide and lithium hydroxide with sodium or potassium hydroxide as additives. The process not only reduces the synthesis temperature significantly but also shortens the production time drastically. The electrochemical properties of the synthesized LiCoO2 were found to be comparable to those of the material produced by the conventional high-temperature method.
By lowering the synthesis temperature and time of production, the research translates to significant energy savings and cost reductions in battery production. This could lead to more environmentally friendly manufacturing processes and lower the cost of Li-ion batteries, ubiquitous in consumer electronics and electric vehicles (EVs). The next steps involve refining the hydroflux process, which could further streamline the production of high-quality cathode materials, thereby enhancing the overall efficiency and sustainability of battery manufacturing.
Epsilon Advanced Materials US EV Battery Material Plant
Epsilon Advanced Materials Inc. (EAM), an Indian company specializing in materials for electric vehicle batteries, is planning its first U.S. manufacturing facility in Brunswick County, North Carolina.
The plant, meant to produce synthetic graphite anode materials, represents a $650 million investment. Expected to be operational by 2026, the company plans to reach a full annual production capacity of 50,000 tons of synthetic graphite by 2031.
This move by EAM is a strategic step in addressing the increasing demand for battery materials amid the surge in EV adoption. By localizing production, EAM aims to supply synthetic and natural graphite anodes more efficiently and cost-effectively, enhancing the reliability of the supply chain for EV battery manufacturers.
Asahi Kasei Li-Ion Separator Coating Equipment Investment
Asahi Kasei Corporation, a leading materials manufacturer, has made a substantial investment in the expansion of its Hipore lithium-ion battery separator coating capabilities.
Hipore lithium-ion battery separators. Image used courtesy of Asahi Kasei
The Hipore separators are crucial components in lithium-ion batteries, providing the necessary insulation between the anode and cathode to prevent short circuits while allowing ions to pass through. Asahi Kasei produces two types of these separators: a polyolefin microporous base film membrane and a coated membrane separator with additional ceramic and other coatings for enhanced performance.
The company plans to install new coating lines at its existing facilities in the United States, Japan, and South Korea. This investment, amounting to approximately ¥40 billion, will boost the company's coating capacity for Li-ion battery separators to around 1.2 billion m2 per year, which is enough to supply batteries for an estimated 1.7 million electric vehicles.
Battery Advances Across the Board
As the demand within the battery industry grows, so does the need for improved battery materials. Now, between new plant investments from groups like EAM, ramped-up production from groups like Asahi Kasei, and academic breakthroughs from Hokkaido University, the future of the battery materials industry looks especially promising.