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BASF to Commercialize Argonne Li-ion Composite Cathode Material; Seeks Funds for Plant in Ohio

Argonne’s patented composite cathode materials (xLi2MnO3·(1-x)LiMO2) offer a good blend of safety, capacity and cost, according to BASF. Source: Argonne. Click to enlarge.

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory and BASF have signed a world-wide licensing agreement to mass produce and market Argonne’s patented composite cathode materials to manufacturers of advanced lithium-ion batteries. BASF will conduct further lithium-ion battery material application development in its current Beachwood, Ohio facility.

Contingent upon winning a DOE grant under Recovery Act - Electric Drive Vehicle Battery and Component Manufacturing Initiative (DE-FOA-0000026), BASF plans to build one of North America’s largest cathode material production facilities in Elyria, Ohio.

The exact scope of the materials included in the licensing deal with Argonne is confidential, according to Dr. Prashant Chintawar, Senior Manager of BASF Future Business NA, but does include formulations from the Argonne patented xLi2MnO3·(1-x)LiMO2 (M= Mn, Ni, Co) structures (also called NMC). An electrochemically inactive Li2MnO3 component integrated with an electrochemically active LiMO2 component provides improved structural and electrochemical stability at high potentials.

In some formulations, the Argonne NMC materials can provide an initial capacity of > 250 mAh g-1 when discharged between 5 and 2.0V and a rechargeable capacity of up to 250 mAh g-1 over the same window. Argonne also licensed these composite materials to Toda Kogyo Corp. of Japan in 2008. (Earlier post.)

The combination of lithium and manganese rich mixed metal oxides extends the operating time between charges, increases the calendar life and improves the inherent safety of lithium-ion cells. Moreover, the enhanced stability of the composite material permits battery systems to charge at higher voltages, which leads to a substantially higher energy storage capacity than currently available material through both the higher voltage and higher capacity per unit weight of active material.

Based on customer feedback, according to Dr. Chintawar, BASF believes these NMC formulations can offer the right combination of safety, capacity and cost to serve as the next generation of dominant cathode material in the evolving Li-ion market. Lithium cobalt oxide materials, he noted, introduced in 1991, still have a more than 60% market share. BASF plans to commercialize these new cathode materials for transportation and other applications.

Known issues with the current composite materials, said Argonne’s Dr. Michael Thackeray during the DOE 2009 merit review meetings, include a large irreversible capacity loss on the initial cycle. Furthermore, charging high-capacity xLi2MnO3•(1-x)LiMO2 electrodes to a high potential (>4.4 V) damages the electrode surface and reduces the rate capability of the electrode.

Improving the rate capability of high-capacity composite electrodes particularly at room temperature is still required to meet the 40-mile range battery requirement for plug-in hybrids, Thackeray said. Ongoing work at Argonne is seeking ways to stabilize the surfaces of the composite electrodes. Flourination is one approach that is promising (earlier post), and phosphate stabilization is another pathway of interest, he noted.

Future work at Argonne in this area will continue to exploit and optimize the xLi2MnO3•(1-x)LiMO2electrodes (composition and performance) with the particular goal of reaching or exceeding the energy and power goals required for 40-mile PHEVs and EVs.

There will be a focus on surface studies, using both fluorides and phosphates to improve stability and rate capability of metal oxide electrodes at high potentials.

BASF is contemplating a research collaboration with Argonne, Chintawar said.

BASF Future Business GmbH, a 100% subsidiary of BASF SE, was founded in April 2001 and owns the company’s lithium-ion battery portfolio, including the longer-term, more speculative work on lithium-sulfur batteries announced in May. (Earlier post.)

BASF currently offers a high-energy Lithium Nickel Cobalt Oxide (LNCO) cathode material.


  • Layered Cathode Materials (Annual Merit Review DOE Vehicle Technologies Program)

  • US Patent 6,677,082. Lithium metal oxide electrodes for lithium cells and batteries

  • US Patent 6,680,143. Lithium metal oxide electrodes for lithium cells and batteries



Ford had the E-Ka running on lithium since 2000.
What is the big deal, just make the cars.


Apologies to Bill Maher, but it's time for "New Rules"...

New Rule: You can't write an article to let somebody hype their latest battery breakthrough without making them disclose actual, useful information:
1) Energy Density in Wh/kg
2) Power Density in W/kg
3) Operating Voltage
4) Number of Cycles retaining 80% capacity
5) Charge rate or charge time (whichever)
6) Projected price
7) Projected time to market

If they won't answer these questions then they are hiding some really ugly facts that make their wonderful announcement essentially useless.


When the Green Party gained power in Germany, I did not hear about a lot of U.S. companies going over there to get government money. However, now that our government wants to make progress, they are over here to get some. Not being nationalistic, but fair is fair.


"When the Green Party gained power in Germany, I did not hear about a lot of U.S. companies going over there to get government money."

I know of at least one Canadian company that moved to Germany - ARISE Technologies. They make solar cells. The Germans gave them 35 million canada dollars, just to move.


I suppose that is good, but why not Germany companies? It IS the German tax payers money.


Guys, I don't understand your problems with the concept of a world-leading company setting up a factory in USA to commercialise a US patented material developed by a US government lab. Is that because you can't pronounce GmbH?


I would like to see U.S. labs paid for by U.S. tax dollars help U.S. companies. I think most tax payers in every country would favor helping their own first. The jobs and profits stay in the country for future growth. I know the global idea is there, but taking care at home should be the first priority.


"I suppose that is good, but why not Germany companies? It IS the German tax payers money."

Maybe it made for a quicker start-up? At the time Germany was desperate to get factories set up in the former East Germany. Doing so put a lot of people to work and got them more 'taxpayers.' They had the smarts to look at more than the bottomline.

The Canadian company brought 'intellectual equity' - patents, etc. to the table.



There are ways of doing it that would be acceptable to the citizens of the country. I am not saying that they are all bad, but investing in domestic business, if possible makes sense to me.


Someone should be paying back the American taxpayer who financed the technology. Why not Germans? And if they build a factory (of course with US taxpayer funds) hat means jobs.

But you might think this patent would be negotiated for Delco or Ford before BASF. Government engineering labs don't make good businessmen.


As long as the money was paid back in addition to the jobs, that might be OK. But the profits leave the country to invest and expand there. If there was a provision that the profits remain to develop and expand in the country that did the research and make the investment, then it might be more acceptable.

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