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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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Recycler signs deal to produce black mass from used lithium-ion e-bus batteries

Fri, 01/22/2021 - 08:56 -- paul Crompton

Lithium-ion battery recycling company Li-Cycle Corp has completed its battery recycling pilot plant where the Canadian produced black mass— a mixture of lithium, nickel, cobalt and copper— from used lithium-ion batteries.

The Canadian firm received 45 end-of-life lithium-ion battery modules from e-busses totalling 3,200 pounds from New Flyer Industries Canada and New Flyer of America— subsidiaries of bus manufacturer NFI Group— in Q4 of 2020.

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Lithium ions research shines light on path to precisely designed batteries for individual uses

Tue, 12/08/2020 - 12:23 -- paul Crompton

An international team of researchers has developed a proof of concept technique for precisely tracking the movement of lithium ions moving through a polymer electrolyte within batteries.

The researchers used X-rays to determine the velocity and concentration of ions within a battery, then compared those results to theoretical models to determine the ion transport number, a fraction of electric current carried by ions in an electrolyte.

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New code of practice for handling lithium-ion batteries lays foundation for electric vehicles in the UK

Thu, 11/26/2020 - 09:30 -- paul Crompton

The first standard in a far-reaching code of practice has been published by the UK’s British Standards Institute (BSI) to ensure the safe and environmentally-friendly manufacture, use and disposal of lithium-ion batteries.

The standard covers eleven handling themes— including storage, hazards and fumes— and is designed to help pack and module manufacturers, vehicle OEMs and recycling organisations manage risks throughout a battery’s lifetime.

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UK firm wins grant to produce lead oxides for advanced lead-acid batteries

Thu, 11/19/2020 - 14:04 -- paul Crompton

UK-based recycling development firm Ever Resource has been awarded £237,425 ($315,500) grant funding to produce lead oxides for enhanced lead-acid technologies from old batteries.

The cash from Innovate UK's 'Sustainable Innovation Fund (round 1)' framework will allow Ever Resource to begin testing its nanostructured lead oxides in commercial lead-acid batteries.

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