Energy storage start-up Sparkz aims to design cobalt out of lithium-ion batteries after exclusively licensing five battery technologies from the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
The technologies include cathode materials, a novel electrolyte formula and a scaling process that could enable industrial scale production of cobalt-free batteries electric vehicle and energy storage applications.
Sparkz is evaluating a location for an R&D and prototyping facility in the U.S. to scale these technologies to meet the demands of customers in the mobility and grid sectors.
The licensed technologies including:
- High energy density secondary lithium batteries:
- Cobalt-free layered oxide cathodes
- Nonaqueous electrolyte with lithium bis (fluorosulfonyl)imide salt for fast charging/discharging of lithium-ion batteries
- Early transition metal stabilized high capacity oxidatively stable cathodes of lithium-ion batteries
- Battery materials scale up and processes: This manufacturing innovation enables industrial-scale production of battery materials through a series of chemical processes.
Despite cobalt’s ability to increases the performance of lithium-ion batteries the metal is costly and mostly mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where humanitarian concerns of workers have been reported.
Global battery demand for batteries is expected to increase from 184GWh in 2018 to more than 2,600GWh in 2030, according to a report by the World Economic Forum’s Global Battery Alliance.
Last year, DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Vehicle Technologies Office selected the ORNL-Sparkz partnership for the DOE Lab Investment Incubator Activity, which focuses on maturing lab-scale technologies for commercialisation.
The partnership was also selected in 2019 for a $750,000 DOE Technology Commercialization Fund project, “Enabling Cobalt-Free Battery Solution for Behind-the-Meter Storage.”
Sparkz was founded last year by Sanjiv Malhotra, who was the first director of DOE’s Energy Investor Center.
Nitin Muralidharan, a postdoctoral researcher at ORNL, performs synthesis of a cathode material using a continuous stirred tank reactor for the development of cobalt-free batteries. Credit: Ilias Belharouak/Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy