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Lithium-ion

UK-US partnership to scale-up direct lithium-ion battery cathode recycling

Fri, 09/10/2021 - 15:44 -- Paul Crompton

UK and US firms have partnered to improve the sustainability of lithium-ion battery manufacturing by using direct cathode recycling methods. 

UK firm Johnson Matthey and the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre (UKBIC) will partner with US firm OnTo Technology on the project involving direct recycling of lithium-ion battery production scrap.

Johnson Matthey has entered into an agreement to scale up OnTo Technology OnTo’s patented process for the direct recycling of lithium-ion battery scrap in collaboration with UKBIC.

Part funding for the feasibility stage of the project is from the UK Government’s Office for Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV) in partnership with Innovate UK.

OnTo’s patented Cathode Healing process restores the coating material to be used in making new batteries. 

A Johnson Matthey spokesman told BEST: “The project is aimed at a demonstration unit that can be scaled-up directly to a commercial unit that can meet the need of cell manufacturers.

“The project is focused on cell manufacturing scrap rather than scrap batteries. The demonstration unit will take material from UKBIC’s cell production line and directly from cell manufacturers.

“The objectives of the project is to scale up OnTo’s patented direct cathode recycling technology, which so far has been developed at laboratory scale, to a scale at which the feasibility of a commercial recycling unit can be demonstrated. 

“A successful method of recycling cell scrap with make a significant overall contribution to the manufacturing efficiency of lithium-ion cell manufacturing, increasing the recycled content of new batteries.”

Matthew Dobson, UKBIC’s principal engineer, said: “The recycling of batteries is an important part of developing a sustainable UK value chain and aligns with our objective of enabling a route to Net Zero." 

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American Manganese success in black mass trials and wins support from Canadian government

Fri, 09/10/2021 - 15:36 -- Paul Crompton

American Manganese has reported the successful recycling of lithium-ion battery black mass into NMC-622 (nickel-manganese-cobalt oxide) cathode precursor.

The black mass feedstock was produced by mechanical size reduction from end-of-life lithium-ion batteries, using the Canada-based firm’s RecycLiCo closed-loop process.

The resulting powder substance contains battery materials, including: lithium, cobalt, nickel, and manganese, as well as copper, aluminium, and graphite. 

American Manganese (AMY) sourced the samples of black mass from an unnamed electric vehicle manufacturer for demonstration of its process and validation of its product.

Laboratory-scale testing of the black mass samples demonstrated a 99% leach extraction efficiency of lithium, nickel, manganese, and cobalt. 

The resulting pregnant leach solution was then adjusted to the desired ratio of nickel, manganese, and cobalt before the direct co-precipitation of the NMC-622 cathode precursor. 

AMY said that Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) scans showed its NMC-622 product shares the same technical specifications –particle morphology, size, and distribution – found in conventional lithium-ion battery cathode precursor materials produced from raw materials.

Government funding

This month AMY received advisory services and funding to support a pilot lithium-ion recycling project from the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) Industrial Research Assistance Program.

The funding, delivered through NRC’s Fast Pilot in Foreign Markets program, is designed to help Canadian small and medium-sized businesses overcome barriers to market entry and facilitate direct adoption of technology in foreign markets.

AMY will model, commission, and test a lithium-ion battery cathode material recycling demonstration plant to include continuous operation with specific cathode waste processing objectives, such as capacity, extraction efficiency, and material purity.

The pilot project is titled ‘Demonstration of Continuous Recycling of Cathode Material from Lithium-ion Battery Production Scrap’.

NRC provided advisory services and conditional funding to support AMY’s research and development project on the ‘Synthesis of Cathode Material Precursors from Recycled Battery Scrap’ project between November 4, 2020 and March 31, 2021.

The main objective of the project is to conduct a technical feasibility study on the synthesis of cathode material precursors with specific particle parameters.

The latest project is in collaboration with European gigafactory developer Italvolt, which is aiming to build a 45GWh, increasing to 70GWh, lithium-ion plant in Scarmagno, Italy. 

In March, the firm signed a memorandum of understanding to develop a commercial recycling plant alongside the Scarmagno plant.

The MOU is a response to the European Commission’s proposed Batteries Regulation, which aims to ensure batteries placed on the EU market are sustainable throughout their life cycle.

Italvolt founder Carlstrom also founded, and is a shareholder, of UK gigafactory hopeful Britishvolt.

 

In July, Britishvolt was granted planning permission to construct its first full-scale lithium-ion facility in Northumberland, UK.

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Svolt closes $1.5B funding round two months after cobalt-free lithium-ion battery announcement

Thu, 09/09/2021 - 11:13 -- Paul Crompton

China cobalt-free lithium-ion battery firm Svolt Energy Technology has closed a B-financing round of 10.28 billion Yuan ($1.5 billion) as it moves to its goal of 200GWh production capacity by 2025.

The financing round will be used for the research and development of new technologies, and the construction of new production facilities in the Chinese cities of Changzhou, Suining, Huzhou, Ma’anshan and Nanjing, as well as in Europe.

This financing round was led by Bank of China Group Investment (BOCGI). 

Other investors include the National Fund for Technology Transfer and Commercialization, Country Garden Venture Capital, Shenzhen Capital Group (SCGC), CCB Investment, IDG Capital, Sany, Xiaomi Corporation, Oceanpine Capital and China Renaissance. 

Original shareholders, including SDIC and JZ Capital, significantly increased their holdings.

The firm closed a 3.5 billion Yuan ($540 million) A-financing round at the end of February.

Svolt has announced orders from Chinese and international automobile manufacturers, including: Great Wall Motors, Geely Automobile, Dongfeng Motor, Stellantis, SF Motors, ENnovate, Leap Motor and Hozon Auto. 

Cobalt-free batteries

In July, Svolt announced the start of series production of its cobalt-free nickel-manganese (NMX) battery cells at a ceremony in Jintan, China.

The firm is initially producing two sizes of its NMX batteries (115 Ah and 226 Ah), which are 75% nickel and 25% manganese. 

Series production of the new NMX batteries followed the successful production of ten tons of cobalt-free cathode material at the battery cell factory in Jintan during January.

Svolt has been mass-producing the cobalt-free cathode material since April.

The batteries can achieve more than 2,500 charging cycles, says the firm.

From the end of 2023, the novel batteries can also be produced at the planned plant in Saarland for the European market.

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Sunlight investment to expand lead and lithium-ion battery production in Europe and US

Tue, 09/07/2021 - 08:47 -- Paul Crompton
Sunlight lead-acid lithium-ion battery manufacturing plant

Battery maker Sunlight will invest an additional €50 million ($59 million) into its US and European plants to increase lead-acid and lithium-ion battery manufacturing.

The Greek firm will invest €30 million ($35.5 million) to increase production of motive power lead-acid flooded products at its plant in Xanthi, northeastern Greece, from 4GWh to 5.3GWh up to Q3 next year.

This investment will include the expansion of existing infrastructure with automated, state-of-the-art machinery in the battery plant. 

The remaining €20 million ($24 million) is being invested to expand its lithium-ion battery assembly plants in Verona, Italy, and North Carolina, US.

Those plants will install three automated assembly lines for lithium modules and complete lithium battery systems, as well as one assembly line for prototyping and R&D purposes.

This investment is part of the company’s goal to offer integrated lithium products for off-road mobility, industrial use, and energy storage applications. 

Production is anticipated to begin by Q3 next year and deliver 1.7GWh of manufacturing capacity a year, while additional space reserved with the potential to increase capacity up to 4GWh.

This latest investment brings Sunlight’s total committed CAPEX spend for 2021-2023 to €180 million ($213 million), with €150million ($170 million) committed to the expansion of lithium production. 

Sunlight’s CEO Lampros Bisalas said: "The investment is already under implementation, and we’re excited for the new, state-of-the art machinery to be installed and further expand our capabilities.

“We’re keen to meet both current and future demands in the off-road mobility and RES energy storage, by scaling up capacity and rendering our Xanthi industrial park a true gigafactory.”

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UL and National Fire Service College partner in Indian lithium-ion fire safety project

Mon, 09/06/2021 - 12:31 -- Paul Crompton

A partnership to advance lithium-ion fire safety and standardisation in India begins this month with a training and knowledge-sharing virtual seminar on electric vehicles and energy storage systems.

The event will bring together key fire safety stakeholders, including those in fire services, academia, associations, standards organisations and research institutes, among others.

The seminar is the first event following a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed by safety science leader Underwriters Laboratories and the National Fire Service College (NFSC).

NFSC is an Institute of Excellence for training fire and emergency service professionals in Nagpur, India. 

UL and NFSC will explore collaborative opportunities with other regulatory organisations relating to battery fires in electric mobility (e-mobility) and grid energy storage systems.

The two organisations signed the MoU on 30 July as part of the ongoing fire research study ‘Battery Fires: Study of Response Strategy of Indian Fire Services’. 

Dr. Judy Jeevarajan, director of the Underwriters Laboratories Electrochemical Safety Research Institute, said: “Given India’s accelerated use of lithium-ion batteries, it is critical for the nation’s fire services to be prepared with the right knowledge, equipment and infrastructure to handle any emergency fire situations.

“This collaboration is a major step towards creating battery fire safety awareness.”

The NFSC memorandum builds upon an ongoing partnership between UL and the government of India that include a MoU with the Bureau of Indian Standards to strengthen India’s standardisation system. 

UL battery safety experts will lead a training workshop in November on the various safety aspects of lithium-ion batteries and discussions will begin on the development of a battery fire safety NFSC course curriculum.

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Sakuú announces pilot facility as it scales up solid-state lithium-ion battery ambition

Fri, 09/03/2021 - 15:25 -- Paul Crompton

Construction of a US solid-state lithium-ion battery pilot line and learning center is being built by additive manufacturing company Sakuu Corporation.

The US firm’s (previously named KeraCel) pilot line will be able to produce up to 2.5MWh of solid-state batteries per year and serve as a customer learning center for its advanced additive manufacturing platform. 

The facility is due to be operational by end of 2021.

Sakuú is aiming to produce solid-state batteries that are up to 50% smaller and 30% lighter than lithium-ion batteries, although the firm didn’t give any figures to back up that promise.

The pilot line will test the viability of the battery manufacturing process and enable Sakuú to deliver sample products to its “early access strategic partners”.

The second phase is expected next year and will use an array of Sakuú AM Platforms to produce up to 1GWh of solid-state battery capacity per year.

Sakuú is working with Relevant Industrial and Honeywell Process Solutions to design and develop the facility by scaling-up the laboratory environment into a fully functioning pilot manufacturing plant.

Relevant and Honeywell will provide engineering, process design, systems integration, and process manufacturing expertise to efficiently build the factory.

Robert Bagheri CEO and founder of Sakuú, said: “This is an important milestone for us. Our technology development has progressed to the level where we have decided to move ahead with our plan to construct and operate a pilot facility. 

“This facility will enable us to provide our strategic customers and early access partners with solid-state batteries for their own development and testing."

New cell developed

Last month, Sakuu announced it has developed a 3Ah lithium-metal solid-state battery (SSB).

Sakuú has been developing its first generation battery technology alongside its additive manufacturing platform, and aims for commercial launch by the end of this year. 

The first-generation batteries comprise 30 sub-cells and a proprietary printed ceramic separator. 

The battery will be targeted to consumer, aerospace, mobility, and other applications.

Bagheri said: “Over the last year, we have improved our battery energy capacity by a factor of 100 and our volumetric energy efficiency over 12 times and are planning to begin volume production of the batteries in early 2022 to meet the needs of our strategic partners."

In June, the California-based firm won approval of three patents: a hybrid solid-state cell with a sealed anode structure; an additive manufacturing system; and an electrophotographic multi-material 3D printer. 

This latest patent is for a monolithic ceramic electrochemical cell housing an anode and cathode receptive space, alongside a separator between the two— allowing for higher charging rates without the risk to safety posed by lithium-ion batteries. 

This is in addition to two previous battery patents for an integrated cell stack battery and monolithic solid-state battery, which were granted back in 2020. 

The second patent for a three-dimensional AM system, allows for patterned single layers to be assembled into a three-dimensional active device onto an assembly plate. The patent includes a carrier substrate which allows for single layers to be built separately and then dispensed on a stack on the assembly plate. 

The final patent is an electrophotographic three-dimensional printer system that can be used to create a 3D part derived from a composite toner material. 

The new patent allows for the use of multiple engineering materials, such as ceramic, metal and polymer materials, which electrophotography was previously unable to employ.

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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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