Calix's advanced battery material development program

Making Better Batteries

Matt Boot Handford \ December 20, 2020

The rapid growth in electric vehicles and renewable energy storage solutions is creating a global need for more efficient, cheaper, better-performing, and more sustainable energy storage options. While a large part of this growth has been enabled through the performance of lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries, issues around the cost, capacity, safety, and sustainability of current lithium-ion batteries will increasingly threaten this growth. There is thus a need for advanced materials for lithium-ion batteries that deliver superior performance and safety at lower cost while at the same time reducing environmental impact.

 

Market opportunity– why are Li-ion batteries of interest?

The Li-ion battery market has grown very quickly, and is predicted to accelerate further…

While there are varying predictions as to the growth for Li-ion battery demand, there is consensus in two things:

  • Growth will be driven by electric vehicles, with significant and growing contribution from stationary storage.
  • Growth will be very fast over the next decade

 

How do lithium ion batteries work?
And why is the cathode so important?

During charging, lithium (Li) ions flow from the cathode to the anode via an electrolyte, through a separator. During the discharge, they flow back to the cathode, generating a flow of electrons from the anode into the external circuit (eg. your phone, or car!) and back to the cathode.

The cathode, as the source of Li + ions, is the main determiner of the capacity and voltage of the battery.

The cathode is also the most expensive component of a lithium ion battery.

 

What are the key operating properties of Li-ion batteries?

  • Energy could be described as how much ‘fuel’ is in the tank
  • Power could be described as how quickly the energy can be used, and replenished
  • In addition to energy and power, many battery manufacturers and users are becoming increasingly concerned with cost, safety and sustainability.

Safety, cost and sustainability is what motivated Tesla to move away from cobalt and toward manganese and nickel chemistry.

At the recent “battery day” in September 2020, Tesla announced a move away from cobalt, in favour of manganese and nickel, in the interests of cost, safety and sustainability.
Reference: Tesla Battery Day Validates Manganese For Use In EV Batteries – MarketWatch

Why might Calix’s technology be suited to battery materials?

We make nano-porous particles, cheaply and already at scale. Our early test work has concentrated on cheap, agricultural, non-battery grade manganese.

 

Despite lower purity – some encouraging performance…

As the discharge rate increases, more strain is put on the cathode material. The unique structure of Calix’s materials has resulted in good stability at a higher charge rate, above commercially available LMO (lithium manganese oxide).

Our early test work has concentrated on cheap, agricultural, non-battery grade manganese.

High magnification images clearly show our material has a different structure

Early days but very encouraging!

Half-cell tests of Calix’s LMO’s at Deakin University have outperformed commercial benchmark LMO’s and LFP’s (lithium iron phosphate) and is in the mix of some high performing lab LMO’s reported in the open literature.

We are only one year into a multi-year, multi-program development, but very encouraged already!

Why might Calix’s technology be suited to battery materials?

We make nano-porous particles, cheaply and already at scale. Calix LMO – (Commercial)

“The adoption of new processes and exploitation of low-cost precursors will be essential in the effort to improve the sustainability of battery technologies.” Dr Matt Boot-Handford, Head of Battery and catalyst R&D at Calix

              High magnification images clearly show our material has a different structure – less like a “pebble” and more like a “sponge”

BATMn Partners

Calix BATMn Reactor – a game-changer for advanced battery research.

Back to the opening ceremony of the BATMn reactor, designed to make a range of nano-active materials for advanced batteries, where the need for precision control of the process conditions is critical for electrochemical performance.

BATMn will be a key provider of next-generation electrode materials for the recently announced CRC-P for Advanced Hybrid Batteries which Calix leads in collaboration the Institute for Frontier Materials and BAT-TRI Hub at Deakin University and specialist chemicals manufacturer Boron Molecular Ltd Pty.

Watch the highlights of the BATMn opening ceremony and full interviews of our partners.

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