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New cobalt-free lithium-ion battery has good performance but lower cost

2020-07-19

For decades, researchers have looked for ways to eliminate cobalt from the high-energy batteries that power electronic devices, due to its high cost and the human rights ramifications of its mining. But past attempts haven't lived up to the performance standards of batteries with cobalt. Cobalt is the important component for high-energy batteries, however, because of the high cost and the human rights ramifications of its mining, researchers have looked for ways to replace cobalt from the batteries that power electronic devices for many years.

In recent research, researchers from the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin has developed a new class of cathodes for battery, which is a cobalt-free. This new high-energy lithium-ion battery has eliminated the cobalt and lowered the cost of producing lithium-ion batteries while improving the battery performance as well. It is reported that the cathodes, which is the electrode in a battery, has changed from all the cobalt to high nickel content. The cathode of lithium-ion battery in the study is 89% nickel. Besides, there are also two other key elements-- manganese and aluminum. The paper was published this month in the journal Advanced Meterials. It was written by Arumugam Manthiram, a professor in the Walker Department of Mechanical Engineering and director of the Texas Materials Institute, Ph.D. student Steven Lee and Ph.D. graduate Wangda Li.

The increase of nickel in the cathode means that more energy can be stored in the battery. A higher energy density can lead to longer battery life for cellphone or greater range for an electric vehicle with each charge. 

Actually, increased energy density will result in trade-offs, such as a shorter cycle life, which is the amount of times a battery can be charged and discharged before it loses efficiency and can no longer be fully charged. It is said that the elimination of cobalt could slow down the battery’s kinetic reactions and cause lower rate capability. But the researchers has avoided performance loss by finding the best combination of metals and make sure their ions are evenly distributed. 

"Cobalt is the least abundant and most expensive component in battery cathodes, and we are completely eliminating it."

-- From Manthiram.

"Our goal is to use only abundant and affordable metals to replace cobalt while maintaining the performance and safety,", "and to leverage industrial synthesis processes that are immediately scalable."

--From Li.

With the focus on reducing reliance on cobalt, cobalt-free batteries will become the pursuit of battery technology. Through innovating combination of materials and the precise control of their distribution, they team said they have solved the problems which blocked the attempts at cobalt-free batteris.  

"We are increasing the energy density and lowering the cost without sacrificing cycle life," "This means longer driving distances for electric vehicles and better battery life for laptops and cellphones."

-- From Manthiram 

Source: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/07/200716101612.htm


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