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Carbon-based anode could pave way to ultra-fast charging lithium-ion batteries.

Mon, 01/10/2022 - 10:07 -- Paul Crompton

Scientists from Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (JAIST) have developed a new anode material that could overcome the slow charging times of conventional lithium-ion batteries.

The technology uses a carbon-based anode with ∼17 wt% of nitrogen doping (introduction of nitrogen impurities) with charging capability at 18.6 A g−1.

The findings could pave the way to fast-charging and durable batteries for electric vehicles as the industry looks to cut the charge time of EVs from around 40-minutes to be below 15 minutes. 

The team of scientists from JAIST was led by professor Noriyoshi Matsumi, and included: professor Tatsuo Kaneko; senior lecturer Rajashekar Badam,; JAIST technical specialist Koichi Higashimine; JAIST research fellow Yueying Peng, and JAIST student Kottisa Sumala Patnaik.

The team’s findings were published online in the journal Chemical Communications.

Professor Matsumi said: "The extremely fast charging rate with the anode material we prepared could make it suitable for use in EVs. Much shorter charging times will hopefully attract consumers to choose EVs rather than gasoline-based vehicles, ultimately leading to cleaner environments in every major city across the world."

New battery material

The precursor material for the anode is poly (benzimidazole), a bio-based polymer that can be synthesized from raw materials of biological origin was calcinated at 800°C. 

Durability tests using half-and full-cells showed the proposed anode material retained around 90% of its initial capacity after 3,000 charge-discharge cycles at high rates.

The researchers verified the successful synthesis of the material and studied its composition and structural properties using a variety of techniques, including: scanning electron tunneling microscopy, Raman spectroscopy, and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy.

A method being investigated to cut charge times is increasing the diffusion rate of lithium ions, which in turn can be done by increasing the interlayer distance in the carbon-based materials used in the battery's anode. 

While this has been achieved with some success by nitrogen doping there is no method easily available to control interlayer distance or to concentrate the doping element.

Modifications to the structure of the polymer precursor could lead to even better performance, which might be relevant for the batteries not only of EVs, but also of portable electronics. 

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Tests continue to prove spherodized vein graphite’s benefits to lithium-ion battery capabilities

Thu, 12/16/2021 - 13:43 -- Paul Crompton

Tests on cells have shown that Canadian mining firm Ceylon Graphite Corp’s vein graphite anode material can increase the specific discharge capacity of lithium-ion batteries.

Results showed cells using the vein graphite material reached 161 and 165 mAh/g for specific discharge capacity (SDC)— similar, commercially used synthetic graphite has a specific capacity of 153mAh/g.

Independent facility University College London (UCL) tested spherodized vein graphite materials in a lithium-ion cell.

Dan Brett, professor of electrochemical engineering at UCL, said: “These are very promising results and I’m excited at the prospect of Sri Lanka using this wonderful natural resource to play a major role in realising the ‘age of electrochemical power’ and achieving Net Zero.” 

Vein graphite from Sri Lanka does not require primary processing due to the high in situ grade—above 90%Cg— and could lower energy consumption of the end-to-end process of producing battery grade anode material relative to synthetic and flake graphite, said Ceylon CEO, Don Baxter 

Building on coin cell success

Earlier this year, the company received positive results from initial lithium-ion coin cell tests by UK organisation WMG, part of the University of Warwick’s Energy Innovation Centre.

Tests were conducted on commercial spherodized vein graphite material in a lithium-ion coin cell.

Results showed the cell had a 382mAh/g reversible capacity (RC), which is beyond that of commercially used synthetic graphite that has an RC of 363mAh/g. 

Data was collected from five separate coin cells using Ceylon’s graphite and material from commercial synthetic suppliers. 

Tests showed that at C/5 stable cycling gave an average reversible capacity of 353mAh/g with standard deviation 9mAh/g over 25 cycles compared to the Synthetic supplier 307mAh/g. 

The performance is due to the high crystallinity of Sri Lankan vein graphite, say the company.

The initial results show the suitability of the material for lithium-ion battery anodes for either stand alone or blending with synthetic graphite.

Graphite shortage

Last week, BEST reported how vehicle giant Tesla and battery behemoth SK Innovations were calling for a waiver on tariffs for graphite imported into the US from China.

Tesla is asking the US Government to waive tariffs on graphite coming from China – claiming it can’t get it elsewhere, reported US news outlet CNNC.

The firms are calling for the lifting of tariffs of 25% that were first introduced by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) in September 2018.

The tariffs of graphite were made in response to China’s “unfair trade practices” conclusion in the Donald Trump administration’s Section 301 investigation.

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Honda to begin battery-swapping service for electric tricycle taxis in India

Tue, 11/16/2021 - 14:05 -- Paul Crompton

Vehicle OEM Honda Motor has announced plans for a battery sharing service for electric tricycle taxis in India using its swappable lithium-ion batteries.

Honda aims to eliminate user concerns around short range, long charging time and high costs through the use of swappable batteries scheme.

The scheme is due to begin in the first half of next year, and follows demonstration testing in India in February when 30 units of electric rickshaw taxis were driven for a total of more than 200,000 km.

Rickshaw drivers will be able to stop at a battery swapping station in the city and swap a low remaining charge battery for a fully-charged MPP e: battery.

The Indian-made Honda Mobile Power Pack e: has a rated voltage of 50.26V, a rated capacity of 26.1Ah/1.3kWh and weighs 10.3Kkg.

To begin this service, Honda will establish a subsidiary in India that will install a number of Honda Mobile Power Pack Exchanger e: as battery swapping stations and conduct battery sharing service in the city. 

Honda will work with electric rickshaw manufacturers and begin the service in selected cities first and then expand to other areas in stages. 

Minoru Kato, chief officer, life creation operations, Honda Motor, said: “The pack has huge potential to electrify all kinds of devices including small-sized mobility products and expand the use of renewable energy. 

“By offering a battery sharing service in India, Honda will contribute to the accelerated electrification of rickshaws and expanded use of renewable energy. 

“Moreover, Honda will continue serving people worldwide with the joy of expanding their life’s potential by further expanding the utilisation of the MPP into broader areas.”

Battery swapping services

Last year, government-owned fossil fuel firm IndianOil partnered with transport infrastructure power company Sun Mobility to set up electric vehicle battery-swapping stations at select fuel stations in cities across India.

A state-of-the-art battery swapping station has been inaugurated at Kapoor Service Station, one of Indian Oil's leading retail outlets in Chandigarh, in northern India.

In April, China fossil fuel company Sinopec signed a strategic agreement with NIO to fit one sixth of its filling stations with the car maker's battery swap facility by 2025.

This represents a big step up for China firm NIO Power, which plans to boost the number of its battery-swap stations from 201 to 5,000 over the next few years.

The new stations are not only fully automated but allow EV drivers to swap their depleted battery for a fully charged one in four-and-a-half minutes with a click of a single button 

In May, Honda was part of a consortium of motorcycle OEMs that joined forces to define the standardised technical specifications of swappable lithium-ion battery system for vehicles.

Other vehicle OEMs were KTM, Piaggio and Yamaha Motor.

The firms signed a letter of intent to create a Swappable Batteries Consortium for Motorcycles and Light Electric Vehicles belonging to the L-category: mopeds, motorcycles, tricycles and quadricycles.

 
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Birla Carbon enters the storage market with carbon black for lithium-ion and lead batteries

Tue, 09/21/2021 - 13:21 -- Paul Crompton

Carbon black manufacturer Birla Carbon has announced its entry into the energy storage systems market with a portfolio of conductive carbons for the lithium-ion and lead-acid batteries.

The portfolio of conductive carbons is designed to enable customisation in formulation and performance in a variety of segments, including automotive, telecoms, motive power, energy storage systems, and e-bikes.

Birla says its Conductex e product portfolio will help increase charge acceptance, cold cranking power, cycle life, gassing and water loss and disperibility in lead batteries.

The firm sees the ideal applications in start-stop micro-hybrid EFB or VRLA applications, SLI and enhanced flooded batteries, e-bikes, energy storage systems and deep cycle operations in e-bikes.

The products leverage the firm’s Ultra process to ensure purity and conductivity, enabling increased charge acceptance, particularly under partial state-of-charge operation.

Birla says its engineered conductive carbon additives can unlock “5-15% energy savings” in lead batteries. 

Dr. Ann Schoeb (pictured), chief R&D officer and business head, Energy Systems, Birla Carbon, said: “As we deepen our focus on innovation and an innovation-driven culture, Birla Carbon has achieved remarkable success in enhancing the contribution of carbons to advanced battery applications.” 

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Janus graphene opens doors for sodium-ion batteries to usurp lithium-ion

Thu, 09/16/2021 - 15:53 -- Paul Crompton

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology have pushed the performance of electrode material for sodium batteries so it matches lithium-ion batteries.

Using a novel graphene, the team at the Swedish institute reported the specific capacity for sodium ions was 332 milliampere-hours-per-gram— almost ten times that of the capacity of sodium intercalation in standard graphite.

The article “Real-time imaging of Na+ reversible intercalation in “Janus” graphene stacks for battery applications” was published in the journal Science Advances. 

Sodium ions are larger than lithium ions and interact differently, which means they cannot be efficiently stored in the graphite structure— unlike lithium-ion cells where the graphite anode allows better ion intercalation.

Chalmers’ research uses Janus graphene (named after the two-faced ancient Roman God Janus) due to its asymmetric chemical functionalisation on opposite faces of the graphene.

The upper face of each Janus graphene sheet has a molecule that acts as both spacer and active interaction site for the sodium ions. 

Each molecule, in between two stacked graphene sheets, is connected by a covalent bond to the lower graphene sheet and interacts through electrostatic interactions with the upper graphene sheet. 

The graphene layers also have uniform pore size, controllable functionalisation density, and few edges.

Jinhua Sun, from the Department of Industrial and Materials Science at Chalmers and first author of the scientific paper, said by adding the molecule spacer  when the layers were stacked together, the molecule creates a larger space between graphene sheets and provides an interaction point— which leads to a significantly higher capacity.

Vincenzo Palermo, affiliated professor at the Department of Industrial and Materials Science at Chalmers, said: “Our Janus material is still far from industrial applications, but the new results show that we can engineer the ultrathin graphene sheets— and the tiny space in between them— for high-capacity energy storage.”

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Sumitomo pilot project delivers high purity nickel and cobalt from used lithium-ion batteries

Thu, 08/26/2021 - 09:23 -- Paul Crompton

Sumitomo Metal Mining has recovered a high-purity nickel-cobalt mixture from used lithium-ion batteries.

The Japan firm has verified that nickel and cobalt recovered from secondary batteries can be reused as a raw material for lithium-ion cathodes. 

The materials produced at its pilot plant in Niihama City, Ehime Prefecture, performed as well as batteries using existing raw materials derived from natural resources, the company said. 

Additionally, Sumitomo was able to produce a soluble slag that enables lithium recovery by pyrometallurgical smelting processes. 

The company first developed a recycling process to recover cobalt at the pilot plant using a combination of pyrometallurgical smelting and hydrometallurgical refining processes in 2019.

Sumitomo is now able to recycle copper, nickel, cobalt and lithium from used batteries. 

In 2017, the existing smelting and refining processes at the Toyo Smelter & Refinery (Saijo City, Ehime Prefecture) and the Niihama Nickel Refinery (Niihama City, Ehime Prefecture) were used in the implementation of copper and nickel recycling.

A Sumitomo statement read: “The demand for the nickel and cobalt used in EVs is going to expand. 

“However, stable supply is a major issue, and there are unbalances in the regions producing these resources and the location of extraction technologies. Demand for recycling of these resources is growing greater than ever. 

“If we are able to commercialise this process, which has verified ‘battery to battery’ recycling, we expect to be able to take the domestic sustainable circular economy to the next level and to make contributions to resource recycling in response to global resource depletion.” 

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Japanese mining firm eyes 10,000 t/m lithium-ion cathode material output

Fri, 07/16/2021 - 09:40 -- Paul Crompton
Sumitomo Metal Mininglogo

Metals firm Sumitomo Metal Mining (SMM) is set to expand its production capacity of lithium-ion cathode materials for electric vehicle batteries. 

Plans include establishing a new plant in the Besshi area (Niihama City, Ehime Prefecture) and expanding production capacity at its Harima Refinery (Harima-cho, Kako-gun, Hyogo Prefecture), both in Japan.

The production capacity of cathode material is planned to be 2,000t/month.

The new plant for nickel-based cathode materials will be opposite SMM’s existing cathode material plant.

Overall capital expenditures for both sites will include: 40 billion yen for the new plant and seven billion yen for the Harima Refinery. 

Construction work is due to be completed in 2025. 

SMM said the production processes will consist of state-of-the-art equipment so the cathode materials can be produced from the start of operation. 

In its 2018 three-year business plan, SMM set a goal of reaching a production capacity of 10,000t/month of cathode material by the end of the 2024. 

This project is adopted by the country’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry as a “Program for Promoting Investment in Japan to Strengthen Supply Chains.” 

SMM will use this grant appropriately in our business to promote the development of Japanese industries. 

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BASF’s cathode expansion accelerates with German lithium-ion recycling plant

Thu, 07/08/2021 - 10:21 -- Paul Crompton
BASF's planned recycling plant in Germany

Chemicals firm BASF is set to build a prototype battery recycling plant in Germany to develop a method of recovering key lithium-ion materials from end-of-life batteries.

The plant will be located at the site of its cathode active materials (CAM) plant in Schwarzheide, with commissioning planned for early 2023.

The prototype recycling plant will allow for the development of operational procedures and optimisation of technology to recover lithium, nickel, cobalt and manganese as well as off-spec material from cell producers and battery material producers. 

The extracted metals will be used to produce new cathode active materials.

Dr. Matthias Dohrn, senior vice president, precious and base metal services at BASF, said: “With this investment in battery recycling, plus leading process technology for manufacturing of cathode active materials, we aim to ‘close the loop’ while reducing the CO2 footprint of our cathode active materials by up to 60% in total compared to industry standards.”

BASF’s investment supports the European Commission’s agenda towards a European battery production value chain and is part of the ‘Important Project of Common European Interest (IPCEI)’ approved by the European Commission in 2019, under the European Union State aid rules. 

The plant’s location was announced in February.

Aggressive cathode expansion

In June, BASF is set to form a joint venture with Hunan Shanshan Energy to produce lithium-ion battery cathode active materials (CAM) and precursors (PCAM) in China.

German firm BASF will have a 51% share of the JV when it closes later this summer following the approval of the relevant authorities.

In May, materials firm Umicore and BASF entered into a non-exclusive patent cross-license agreement covering a range of lithium-ion cathode materials and their precursors.

 

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Environmentally friendly lithium-ion battery recycling method announced by ORNL

Fri, 06/25/2021 - 16:33 -- Paul Crompton
Environmentally friendly lithium-ion battery recycling method announced by ORNL

Scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have developed a solvent that enables a “more environmentally friendly” process for recycling lithium-ion batteries.

The ORNL-developed wet chemical process uses triethyl phosphate to dissolve the binder material that adheres cathodes to metal foil current collectors in lithium-ion batteries.

The method can recover cobalt-based cathodes, graphite and other valuable materials like copper foils for reuse in new batteries.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory researcher Yaocai Bai told BEST: "We are working with the battery industry and several companies are interested in this patented technology.

"The pyrometallurgical process involves the high energy cost of using high-temperature kilns and the detrimental generation of gaseous pollutants. The hydrometallurgical process involves caustic reagents and wastewater treatment. In contrast, our method utilises a green solvent that can be recycled and reused, making the process more environmentally friendly.

"The cost of this process is currently being evaluated. We are using the EverBatt model developed by the DOE ReCell Center to study both the cost and environmental aspects of our process. We believe the cost is low because of the reusability of the green solvent."

The use of, triethyl phosphate enabled the recovery of cobalt-containing cathodes, such as NMC622, by dissolving the polymeric binder of poly (vinylidene fluoride). 

Electrochemically active materials were separated from cathode scraps collected at the manufacturing step of electrodes through a solvent-based separation method without jeopardizing their physical characteristics, crystalline structure, and electrochemical performance. 

The team reported the recovered aluminum foils had no sign of corrosion and the polymeric binder could be recovered via a non-solvent-induced phase separation.

Additionally, recovery of cathode materials from spent cells was achieved using refined separation parameters based on the recycling of cathode scraps.

ORNL’s Ilias Belharouak said: “With this solvent, we’re able to create a process that reduces toxic exposure for workers and recovers valuable, undamaged, active NMC [nickel-manganese-cobalt] cathodes, clean metal foils and other materials that can be easily reused in new batteries.” 

To date, the tem has only tested the technology on a "few kilograms" of battery scrap.

 

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Commercially ready anode-free sodium-metal battery developed in US

Tue, 05/25/2021 - 11:01 -- Paul Crompton
Commercially ready anode-free sodium-metal battery developed in US

A US team from the Washington University in St. Louis has developed a stable sodium-ion coin cell that could one day replace lithium-ion batteries.

The ‘cheaper and smaller’ technology uses a thin layer of copper foil on the anode side of the battery as the current collector.

Taking into account only the active materials, the energy density of the tested coin cells were in the range of 310-340 Wh/kg.

For the 100 cycles, the team tested at 2C-rate and 3C-rate with the cells showing a >99.9% capacity retention rate per cycle, which projects the cells can run for more than 200 cycles before reaching 80% of the initial capacity.

The technology is ready for commercial tests and optimisation, say the team.

In the anode-free battery the ions are transformed into a metal where they plate themselves onto the copper foil, before dissolving when returning to the cathode.

The research was published 3 May in the journal Advanced Science.

Previously, anode-free batteries were unstable, and grew dendrites that were attributed to the reactivity of the alkali metals involved, namely sodium.   

The technology was made in the laboratory of Peng Bai, assistant professor in the university’s Department of Energy, Environmental & Chemical Engineering in the McKelvey School of Engineering.

Bai told BEST: “Our focus here was the anode, which by itself (in a control cell) can run for more than 7,000 hours without degradation. 

“But we need a better cathode to make the anode-free full cell to achieve longer cycle life. 

“Once the optimised cathode material, either from us or from another research group or company, is identified the technology will be ready for commercialisation. It doesn't require any special facilities other than what people currently use for lithium-ion batteries.”

He added: “Our demonstration shows that in terms of energy density it is comparable to lithium-ion batteries. So wherever people want to lower the cost of their lithium-ion batteries, they can use this anode-free sodium battery. They would not notice performance differences, but save a lot of money.” 

The cost-saving for manufacturing the anode-free sodium (Na) battery comes from three aspects: the anode material (no need for anode materials like graphite); anode processing (no need to fabricate the graphite anode laminate); and the cathode material (Na-based materials are cheaper than lithium-based materials for synthesizing the cathode).

The concept of replacing lithium with sodium and removing the anode isn’t new, but the problem has been developing an anode-free battery with a reasonable lifetime, said Bai.

Bingyuan Ma, the paper’s first author and a doctoral student in Bai’s laboratory, said: “In our discovery, there are no dendrites; the deposit is smooth, with a metal luster. 

“This kind of growth mode has never been observed for this kind of alkali metal.”

Watching the battery in action, the researchers saw shiny, smooth deposits of sodium, which eliminates morphological irregularities that can lead to the growth of dendrites.

Image: Bingyuan Ma holding a transparent capillary cell. Bai’s Lab at the McKelvey School of Engineering is the only one in the world with such diagnostic cells. (Courtesy: Bai Lab)

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