|SEM images of particle morphology of 3M NMC cathode materials. Source: 3M. Click to enlarge.|
3M has entered into a strategic relationship and an agreement with China-based Amperex Technologies Ltd. (ATL) that will expand the use of nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMC) cathode materials in lithium-ion batteries targeted at consumer electronics and automotive applications.
3M will become a strategic supplier of NMC cathode materials to ATL and will work jointly with ATL to develop new cathode, anode and electrolyte materials for the lithium-ion battery industry. Under the agreement, 3M granted ATL a license to 3M intellectual property for the use of 3M NMC cathode materials in lithium-ion batteries.
|Charge/discharge profiles of 3M NMC cathode materials. Source: 3M. Click to enlarge.|
3M battery cathodes are mixed metal layered oxides composed of nickel, manganese, and cobalt. They have improved thermal stability and up to six times less cobalt for reduced price volatility when compared to the industry standard lithium cobalt oxide. 3M currently offers three cathode products: BC-618, BC-718 and BC-723. 3M has developed these proprietary cathode powder formulations with precise control of structure and compositions tailored for both energy and power applications to serve the consumer electronics and automobile industries.
In 2007, the US Department of Energy awarded 3M up to $1.14 million (total DOE/industry cost share: $ 2.28 million) for a two-year project to screen nickel manganese cobalt cathode materials through building and testing of small-sized cells. (Earlier post.) The award was part of a set of five targeted at plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) research under DOE’s collaboration with the United States Advanced Battery Consortium (USABC).
Working with ATL is a great opportunity for 3M to apply its advanced materials in next-generation lithium-ion batteries for higher capacity and improved thermal stability, important attributes for electronics and transportation.—Chris Milker, Business Manager, 3M Electronics Markets Materials Division
NMC materials in general offer a capacity of about 170 mAh g-1 when cycling to 4.3 V vs. lithium, but have the ability to increase their capacity to levels approaching 250 mAh g-1 at higher potential. Achieving these high capacities currently results in a decrease in the life of the battery, however. In a Letter of Inquiry seeking prospective researchers for FY 2008 work with the Batteries for Advanced Transportation Technologies Program, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory noted that:
While considerable progress has been made in identifying new cathodes that possess energy that exceeds those presently available, the enhanced capacity is only accessible at potentials that are outside the stability window of presently available electrolytes....A more stable cathode-electrolyte interface is crucial to achieve the capacities needed to bring PHEVs to the market.
Patents on the 3M composition have been issued in China, Taiwan and USA. Applications are pending in EP, Hong Kong, Korea, and Japan. 3M battery materials product and technology portfolio includes cathode powders, anode powders, specialty electrolyte salt/additives, and heat transfer fluids.
Amperex Technologies Limited supplies lithium-ion polymer battery to name-brand companies worldwide. ATL, headquartered in Hong Kong, has manufacturing facilities in China.
In 2002, ATL entered an OEM agreement with Valence to manufacture the company’s lithium-ion phosphate batteries. For fiscal year 2008, the ATL agreement was responsible for the bulk of Valence’s $586,000 in licensing and royalty revenue (down from $703,000 in FY 2007 and $724,000 in FY 2006).