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Lithium-ion

ORNL’s robot tears down lithium-ion battery pack 8x quicker than by hand

Fri, 09/03/2021 - 15:17 -- paul Crompton
ORNL’s robot lithium-ion battery pack

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have developed a robotic disassembly system for used lithium-ion batteries from electric vehicles.

The robots accelerate disassembly and make the process of breaking any type of battery stack safer for workers, while increasing throughput.

ORNL project team member Jonathan Harter estimates the automated system could handle 100 or more battery stacks in the time it takes to disassemble 12 by hand.

The system breaks down the battery stack to sections, then to modules, then to cells. 

ORNL has developed other processes to break down those cells to the pouch/anode/cathode/separator components. They have also developed control technologies to repurpose spent EV batteries for grid energy storage.

Economically feasible recyling

Harter believes that to make recycling more economically feasible, it must be done at high throughput and be flexible enough to process multiple consumer products in a single facility. 

He said: “Industry is not limited on the amount of batteries they can take into this process. There is a significant backlog already accumulated. 

“The limiting factor is the time it takes to perform the electrical discharge and perform disassembly manually.”

The robots remove bolts and other housing regardless of any remaining charge, whereas human operators must undertake lengthy processes to discharge used batteries before breaking them down manually. 

The automated system was developed as part of DOE’s Critical Materials Institute (CMI).

It can be programmed to access the individual battery modules for refurbishment or reuse as stationary energy storage, or the batteries can be taken down to the cell level for separation and materials recovery.  

The work builds on expertise developed in previous ORNL projects for the CMI that focused on robotic disassembly of hard drives for recovery of rare-earth magnets. 

Engineers also proved that those magnets can be directly reused in electric motors.

The researchers follow the same protocol each time: breakdown the used component manually and collect data on that process to create the robotic tools and controls needed to drive an automated system.

The next step could be building the process up to commercial scale, and applying the same kind of disassembly system to electric vehicle drive trains for recovery of materials such as rare earth magnets, copper, steel and intact power electronics. 

The system was developed and demonstrated at ORNL’s Grid Research Integration and Deployment Center.

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Britishvolt and Glencore sign strategic partnership for long-term supply of cobalt

Fri, 09/03/2021 - 15:06 -- paul Crompton

Gigafactory firm Britishvolt has entered a cobalt supply agreement with Glencore as the UK company looks to secure a raw material supply chain for its lithium-ion ambitions.

Britishvolt will take a minimum of 30% of all its cobalt requirements from Switzerland-based Glencore, which has also made an undisclosed investment into the battery hopeful as part of the deal.

Ben Kilbey, chief communications officer at Britishvolt, told BEST there was no timeline on its deal, it was just a “long-term partnership”. 

Britishvolt announced in July it had been granted planning permission to construct its lithium-ion facility in Northumberland, UK.

The project will be built in three, 10GWh phases to a total capacity of 30GWh from 2027 onwards.

Orral Nadjari, Britishvolt CEO/founder said that by partnering with Glencore, the firm was able to “lock in supply” and “derisk the project”.

He said: “Cobalt is a key ingredient in electric vehicle batteries and knowing that we are being supplied with responsibly produced cobalt is a signal to the market that we are living by our values.”

David Brocas, head cobalt trader, Glencore, said: “As the mobility and energy transition accelerates, so does future demand for battery metals such as cobalt, copper and nickel.”

Britishvolt is on target to manufacture some of the world’s most sustainable, low carbon battery cells on the site of the former Blyth Power Station coal stocking yard located in Cambois, Northumberland.

Britishvolt is part of a consortium of seven UK-based organisations that have signed a memorandum of understanding to develop prototype solid-state batteries for automotive applications. 

Britishvolt signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Welsh government in July, 2020, but within a month had announced it was planning to build its plant in Northumberland.

BEST interviewed the firm’s chief strategy officer Isobel Sheldon about the company’s plans to build the UK’s first gigafactory in the Autumn 2020 edition of the magazine. You can read the interview here

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Battery Resourcers to build new US facilities as it drives forward US and European plans

Thu, 09/02/2021 - 11:22 -- paul Crompton

Battery Resourcers is set to build two facilities in the US to accelerate the growth of its lithium-ion battery recycling and manufacturing business model.

The new facilities in Massachusetts and Michigan mark a step in Battery Resourcers’ scaling up pilot operations before continued commercial expansion in North America and Europe.

A facility in Westborough, Massachusetts, will process black mass to cathode precursor material and purify the recovered graphite to a level higher than 99.9%. 

The company’s battery material research and development team will be relocated to Westborough to integrate laboratory development and increase manufacturing scaling efforts. 

The Novi, Michigan, facility will support the company’s goal of developing and commercialising battery materials, including the sintering and finishing of nickel manganese cobalt cathode. 

The Novi site also contains a state-of-the-art materials analytical laboratory, as well as laboratory-scale battery production and test capabilities, to evaluate the performance of its battery materials.  

The new pilot plants are in addition to Battery Resourcers’ operation in Worcester, Massachusetts.

As part of the expansion, the operation center in Worcester will be converted into a mechanical shredding operation, including disassembly, discharge and shredding operation for cells, modules and complete battery packs. 

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Paper-waste shows potential for bringing sodium batteries to commercialisation

Thu, 09/02/2021 - 09:51 -- paul Crompton
Zhen Xu, a research postgraduate at the Faculty of Engineering, Department of Chemical Engineering.

A team at Imperial College London have created a battery material they believe could enable the transition from lithium-ion to sodium-ion batteries. 

The scientists prepared lignin (a waste by-product of the paper industry)-derived carbon nanofibre to produce mats that serve as a protective “skeleton” to protect the cell’s metallic sodium anode.

The team from the Titirici Group in the Department of Chemical Engineering used coin cells in the tests with an energy density of around 384Wk/kg-1, which was based on the total active mass of the cathode and anode.

The plan is to next test the technique at pouch level with the goal of producing sodium batteries that can be used in EV or grid energy storage stations as flexible or structural energy storage devices.

The results were published in journal Energy and Environmental Science.

Lignin mats were produced using ‘electrospinning’, with the fibres then carbonised to produce numerous defects in the material structure that support an “even and stable” deposition of metallic sodium.

By combining metallic sodium with specially tailored lignin-based carbon, the team was able to retain and utilise the energy capacity benefits while the safety risks associated with a build-up of dendrite— which causes batteries to short-circuit— were reduced. 

Normally, a sodium metal anode can directly store sodium ions, but the dendrite formation would cause a short circuit of the batteries, said Zhen Xu, a research postgraduate at the Faculty of Engineering, Department of Chemical Engineering.

Co-author of the paper Xu told BEST: “Therefore, we need a skeleton to protect the sodium metal anode. Bulk sodium metals are pieces of normal sodium metal without any skeleton.

“In this study, the lignin-derived carbon nanofibre mats serve as a skeleton to protect the metallic sodium anode from the dendrite formation, so the metallic sodium is the active anode material to store sodium ions in fact. 

“To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time to use the lignin-derived carbon nanofibre mats to protect the sodium metal anode.” 

Xu added: “Our research shows the great potential for sodium-ion batteries to play a significant role in a sustainable energy future. Now we hope to work with industry to develop this technology on an industrial scale and explore new applications for sodium-ion batteries.”

Corresponding author of the paper, professor Magda Titirici, said: “It is exciting to see new opportunities for lignin utilisation in the battery sector and its potential to develop new sodium-based technologies, which could revolutionise the electric vehicle sector by creating high performance, safe and more sustainable batteries.”

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Vistra expansion makes project the world’s biggest lithium-ion ESS

Wed, 09/01/2021 - 14:38 -- paul Crompton
Vistra lithium-ion ESS

Power generation firm Vistra has completed the second phase of its record-breaking lithium-ion energy storage systems in Monterey County, US.

The 100MW expansion of the Moss Landing Energy Storage Facility brings the facility's total capacity to 400MW/1.6GWh— the largest of its kind in the world.

The battery system is being used to bolster reliability to California's grid using technology from LG Energy Solution.

Curt Morgan, chief executive officer at Vistra said: "This facility provides a solution California desperately needs and this expansion was able to come online at the right time, as the summer heat intensifies and demand for electricity is at its highest. 

“The state's laudable immense build-out of intermittent renewable power has both lowered emissions and presented a reliability challenge. 

“Our Moss Landing battery system helps to fill the reliability gap, storing the excess daytime power so it doesn't go to waste and then releasing it to the grid when it's needed most." 

The project was announced 15 months ago, with construction started in September 2020.

Phase one of the project, a 300MW/1.2GWh system made up of more than 4,500 stacked battery racks or cabinets, was connected to the power grid and began operating on 11 December.

The site has the space to support even further expansion up to 1.5GW MW/6GWh using Vistra’s existing site infrastructure, including existing transmission lines and grid interconnection. 

The 100-MW/400-MWh Phase II expansion is operating under a 10-year resource adequacy agreement with Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E). Phase I has a similar 20-year resource adequacy agreement with PG&E.

Earlier this month, Florida Power and Light's (FP&L) announced its Manatee Energy Storage Center in Manatee County, Florida was 75% complete, with 100 of its 132 battery units installed and all 132 inverters in place. 

When the Manatee site is completed and connected to the grid at the end of this year it will have capacity of 409MW/900MWh.

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Ganfeng Lithium reveals plans for 15GWh of lithium-ion battery production in China

Fri, 08/27/2021 - 13:41 -- paul Crompton
ganging lithium office

Jiangxi Ganfeng Lithium has announced plans to build lithium-ion battery making plants totalling 15GWh in China.

The facilities are part of the company’s goal of making its subsidiary, Jiangxi Ganfeng LiEnergy Technology (JGLT), a leading player in the battery industry.

JGLT intends to invest RMB3 billion ($463 million) in a 5GWh plant in the High Tech Industrial Development Zone of Xinyu, Jiangxi Provence.

This project will include four battery production plants, battery R&D centre, and a product analysis and testing centre. 

The plant is due to be completed and put into operation in October 2023. 

The company will also invest RMB5.4 billion ($833 million) to set up a independent legal entity project company to build a “new-type lithium battery” 10GWh a year Science and Technology industrial park and an Advanced Battery Research Institute project in Liangjiang New District, Chongqing. 

The projects are due to be completed within 18 months of the unconfirmed start date of construction, and put into operation within six months of completion. 

The plans will be put into action if agreed during an extraordinary general meeting of the company on 31 August.

Solid-state battery tests

Jiangxi Ganfeng has signed a agreement with China's state-controlled automaker Dongfeng to develop, promote and demonstrate the viability of the latter’s E70 solid-state battery model.

The company will continue to expand its output of solid-state batteries beyond its existing 1GWh capacity within this year to support Dongfeng's new energy developments, reported media outlet Argus Media. 

Dongfeng is on target to complete listing its solid-state battery-equipped vehicle model this year and aims to begin deliveries in 2022. 

Ganfeng Lithium invested 2.2 billlion yuan ($340 million) to construct a facility with 7,000 t/yr of lithium metal and lithium material capacity in Yichuan city in south China's Jiangxi province in April.

Its second-generation solid-state battery is made from high-nickel ternary cathode and lithium metal containing anode material, which has an energy density of more than 350Wh/kg and can be cycled around 400 times. 

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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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EVE announces 30GWh of battery capacity plans as it forms lithium-ion separator JV

Wed, 08/25/2021 - 12:02 -- paul Crompton

Chinese battery manufacturer EVE Energy plans to build two lithium-ion production facilities totalling 30GWh of capacity in the central province of Hubei.

EVE and its subsidiaries plan to build a 15GWh lithium iron phosphate (LFP) battery project for logistics vehicles and household energy storage, and a 15GWh nickel-cobalt-manganese (NCM) battery project for passenger vehicles.               

The announcement follows EVE signing the Strategic Investment Agreement with the Administrative Committee of Jingmen High-tech Industrial Development Zone on 2 August. 

Construction schedules and launch dates were not announced. 

The agreement is a framework agreement, and the specific cooperation matters shall be subject to the separate contract signed by the Jingmen High-tech Zone Management Committee and EVE or EVE's subsidiary.

An EVE statement read: “This cooperation is conducive for both parties to give full play to their respective resources and advantages, expand the production capacity of power energy storage batteries, and further improve the diversified industrial layout of EVE.”

EVE Energy develops, produces and sells consumer batteries, including lithium galvanic, small lithium-ion and ternary cylindrical batteries; power batteries used in electric vehicles and their battery systems; as well as energy storage batteries.

EVE is one of the 10 largest battery manufacturers in China. 

Joint venture agreement

On 2 August, EVE entered into a joint venture (JV) with Yunnan Energy New Material (SEMCORP Group) to focus on the manufacturing of lithium-ion battery separator and coating film.

The expected annual capacity is 1.6 billion square meters of wet battery separators and corresponding coating films, which will prioritize supply to EVE and its subsidiaries. 

The total planned investment for the project is $805 million.

The Joint Venture Operating Agreement and supplementary agreement will see the parties establish the joint venture in Jingmen City.

The registered capital of the JV is $248 million , of which, SEMCORP’s designated investor subscribes $136 million and holds 55% of the equity of the joint venture JV while EVE subscribes $112 million and holds the remaining equity.

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‘Made-in-the US’ lithium-ion cell supply deal signed by Proterra and LGES

Wed, 08/25/2021 - 09:12 -- paul Crompton
 lithium-ion battery by Proterra

Electric vehicle and charging firm Proterra has finalised a six-year lithium-ion deal with LG Energy Solution that represents plans for “multiple GWhs of dedicated battery cell capacity” in the US.

The deal extends the firms existing battery-cell supply agreement, and secures Proterra a stable supply of LG Energy Solution (LGES)— a LG Chem subsidiary— battery cells through to 2028. 

The high nickel NCMA cells will be used to manufacture Proterra’s commercial electric vehicle battery systems.

California-based Proterra had to stump up a “nine-figure sum” to secure the long-term supply of lithium-ion cylindrical cells manufactured at Korean-owned LG Energy Solution’s US plant.

Both Proterra and LGES now plan to obtain approval from their board of directors for the agreement by Q4.

Proterra did not confirm the location of the plant that would make the cells when questioned by BEST

LGES plans to invest more than $4.5 billion in US manufacturing capacity, including plants in Michigan and Ohio (in conjunction with with General Motors, which is under construction).

LGES is also working on a pilot plant for Tesla’s 4680 prototype lithium-ion cells.

High nickel NCMA cells 

Wonjoon Suh, the senior vice president and the division leader of Mobility and IT Battery Division at LGES, said: “The collaboration between LG Energy Solution and Proterra will act as a critical milestone in seizing America’s eco-friendly commercial vehicle industry, already taking a lead in the global market. 

“LGES will continue to expand our EV battery manufacturing capability in the U.S. and bolster local supply chain to foster clean energy industry in the US.”

Since 2016, Proterra and LG Chem engineering teams have been collaborating to increase cell performance to meet the requirements of commercial vehicle markets. 

The cylindrical cells to be manufactured at the new LGES plants will feature a high nickel NCMA chemistry engineered for commercial vehicle and industrial applications. 

Earlier this month, LGES secured 100% rights to battery-grade nickel and cobalt materials from Australian Mines.

The six-year deal is for mixed hydroxide precipitate (MPH) from the $1.5 billion Sconi Project in North Queensland, in which it will have access to 71,000 tonnes of nickel and 7,000 tonnes of cobalt from the end of 2024.

LGES signed a lithium-ion battery materials off-take deal with Australian firm Vulcan Energy in August for up to 45 metric tonnes of lithium hydroxide over the five-year term of the deal.

LG Energy Solution woes

In June, LGES was forced to extend its safety recall over concerns its lithium-ion powered Resu-branded residential energy storage units installed could overheat and catch on fire.

The affected units were equipped with lithium-ion cells manufactured between March 2017 and September 2018. 

The systems were installed as part of a residential energy solar system, which allowed owners to capture and store energy from solar panels. 

 

Launched in December, LGES said it had received ‘isolated reports’ about overheating incidents linked to home energy storage system battery installations. 

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Battery Resourcers welcomes Toyota Research Institute’s CFO to its board

Tue, 08/24/2021 - 11:50 -- paul Crompton
Kelly Kay

Vertically integrated lithium-ion battery recycler and manufacturer Battery Resourcers has named Kelly Kay as its newest board member.

Kay serves as executive vice president, chief financial officer and chief diversity & inclusion officer at the Toyota Research Institute (TRI). 

Her appointment comes three months after the firm completed a $20 million Series B equity round, and announced the development of a commercial-scale processing facility with the capacity to produce “10,000 tons” of batteries annually.

Mike O'Kronley, CEO and director of Battery Resourcers, said: "Kelly's experience at high growth companies and her deep knowledge of business operations and strategy will help bring us to the next level in our development.”

Kay joined TRI in 2017 and has previously served as the organisation's chief operating officer. 

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