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Hydro-Québec, Université de Montréal, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and Süd-Chemie create entity for sublicensing of lithium iron phosphate battery materials; 4 new sublicensees

The owners of the rights to key patents on lithium metal phosphate, including lithium iron phosphate (LMP/LFP), and related battery materials, in conjunction with Süd-Chemie AG, Munich, have established a new foundation for the global marketing of these materials.

Lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4, LFP) is a cathode material that, due to its performance and safety profile, is attractive for use in batteries in applications such as hybrid and electric drives in the automotive industry and for stationary energy storage. LFP material was discovered at the University of Texas in Austin in 1995 and licensed to Hydro-Québec. When LFP material is coated with a thin layer of carbon, its conductivity is enhanced allowing LFP’s performance. Such a layer must be thin enough to permit the passage of lithium ions.

These inventions were protected through LFP carbon coating patents and the LFP carbon coating process patents co-owned by Hydro-Québec, Canada, Université de Montréal, Canada, and Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), France.

Süd-Chemie, via its subsidiary Phostech Lithium Inc., was previously the exclusive licensed supplier of LMP/LFP. Süd-Chemie has agreed with the three patent owners, Hydro-Québec, Université de Montréal and CNRS, to facilitate the distribution of this technology through the creation of LiFePO4+C Licensing AG, Muttenz/Switzerland which will issue sublicenses to suitable LMP/LFP producers capable to address the market demand with high quality products.

Initial sublicense agreements have been concluded with two Japanese entities—Sumitomo Osaka Cement Co. Ltd. and Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding Co. Ltd.—and two Taiwanese entities—Tatung Fine Chemicals Co. and Advanced Lithium Electrochemistry (Cayman) Co., Ltd (ALEEES).

The latter has undertaken to build and operate an industrial-size manufacturing plant in the province of Québec, Canada. LiFePO4+C Licensing AG plans to issue additional sublicenses for LMP/LFP technology to a limited number of companies.

The LMP/LFP patents comprise three separate groups of patent rights affording extensive worldwide protection for LMP/LFP technology: the Goodenough patents on LMP/LFP material; the carbon coating patents, usable with LMP/LFP material and other materials; and the carbon coating process patents. The basic LMP/LFP material technology was invented and patented by Dr. John Goodenough of the University of Texas in Austin.

Its potential was first recognized by Dr. Michel Armand of CNRS who further worked with Dr. Nathalie Ravet, Dr. Michel Gauthier and other scientists at Université de Montréal, Montréal/Canada and at Hydro-Québec’s research facility (IREQ), Montreal/Canada in research efforts financially supported by Hydro-Québec, Université de Montréal and CNRS. Dr. Armand was instrumental in setting up an early collaboration between Hydro-Québec and the University of Texas in Austin to explore and develop this technology.

In addition to Süd-Chemie and the new sublicensees, Japan’s Sony Corporation has a non-exclusive license to manufacture LMP/LFP for use in Sony’s own battery production.

Süd-Chemie is specialty chemicals company headquartered in Munich, Germany and operating on a worldwide scale, generating sales of €1.225 billion in 2010. In its battery materials activities, Süd-Chemie focuses primarily on developing and manufacturing LFP. On the new site of its Canadian subsidiary, Phostech Lithium Inc., Süd-Chemie is currently constructing an industrial production plant for high quality LFP using a new, proprietary production process. Commercial production for series delivery will start in 2012 to reach a rate of 2,500 tons per year. Such volume, will allow the production of approximately 50,000 all-electric automobiles or, alternatively, up to 500,000 vehicles with hybrid drive per year.

(A hat-tip to Bob!)


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