Hydro-Québec and Technifin form partnership to license lithium titanate spinel oxide (LTO) technologies for Li-ion battery applications
Hydro-Québec (Canada) and Technifin (South Africa) have entered into an intellectual property collaboration agreement relating to the licensing of their respective intellectual property (IP) in lithium titanate spinel oxide (LTO) technologies, notably for lithium-ion battery applications.
The Hydro-Québec/Technifin LTO patents comprise two separate groups of patent rights affording extensive worldwide protection for LTO technology. The first group, the Technifin patents, cover the basic use in lithium-ion cells of the LTO anodes invented in 1994 by Dr. Michael Thackeray (currently an Argonne Distinguished Fellow at the US Argonne National Laboratory) while at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in South Africa.
The second group covers the potential of LTO that was recognized in 1995 by Dr. Karim Zaghib at Hydro-Québec’s research institute, IREQ. Dr. Zaghib subsequently exploited, improved and patented novel aspects of LTO technology. (Dr. Zaghib currently serves as Administrator of the energy storage and conversion unit at Hydro-Québec. In 1996, he was the first to propose the use of nano-scale LTO for lithium-ion batteries and hybrid supercapacitors.)
Lithium titanate spinel oxide, notably Li4Ti5O12, is an attractive anode material for certain applications of lithium-ion batteries. It operates at 1.5 V above the potential of metallic lithium, thereby resulting in battery couples with remarkable safety compared to conventional systems that use lithiated graphite, LiC6, as the anode.
Battery couples include LTO/LMO (lithium manganese oxide spinel); LTO/LMNO (lithium manganese nickel oxide spinel); and LTO/LFP (lithium iron phosphate olivine). The three-dimensional space for lithium-ion movement within the LTO spinel framework provides an exceptionally high transport rate, particularly when nano-sized LTO particles are used.
Furthermore, the lithium insertion and extraction reactions that take place during charge and discharge, respectively, occur with no significant contraction/expansion of the crystal lattice, resulting in a much higher cycle life. Despite the low capacity of LTO (175 mAh/g) relative to that of graphite (372 mAh/g), lithium-ion cells with advanced LTO anodes are particularly attractive for a new, emerging generation of safe lithium-ion batteries to power hybrid electric vehicles and other mobile devices, as well as for stationary energy storage applications.
The decision by Hydro-Québec and Technifin to pool their respective LTO IP for licensing purposes lays the foundation for responding to demand for reliable sources of LTO by allowing fast and broad-based market penetration of high-quality LTO materials. Technology transfer and know-how will be provided with the support of Hydro-Québec researchers to enable rapid and efficient implementation of the technology in battery products. A number of licences have recently been granted for patents within the IP pooled portfolio.
Hydro-Québec is a public utility that generates, transmits and distributes electricity. Its sole shareholder is the Québec government. It primarily exploits renewable generating options, in particular hydropower, and supports the development of wind energy through purchases from independent power producers. Its research institute, IREQ, conducts R&D in energy efficiency, energy storage and other energy-related fields.
Hydro-Québec invests more than $100 million per year in research. It has been conducting research on batteries for over 30 years, including extensive work on advanced materials, particularly molten salts, lithium iron phosphate and nanotitanates.
Technifin, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), owns and licenses patents that originate from CSIR. CSIR is one of the leading science and technology research, development and implementation organizations in Africa. CSIR’s shareholder is the Government of South Africa, which holds CSIR in proxy through the Minister of Science and Technology.
CSIR invests more than $200 million per year in research and has been involved in battery research since 1974. In particular, CSIR pioneered the discovery and early development of high-temperature sodium-metal chloride (“Zebra”) batteries and was an early creator of intellectual property that was core to the international commercialization of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries.