New class of cobalt-free cathodes could enhance energy density of next-gen lithium-ion batteries

Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers have developed a new family of cathodes with the potential to replace the costly cobalt-based cathodes typically found in today’s lithium-ion batteries that power electric vehicles and consumer electronics. The new class called NFA, which stands for nickel-, iron- and aluminum-based cathode, is a derivative of lithium nickelate and can be used to make the positive electrode of a lithium-ion battery. These novel cathodes are designed to be fast charging, energy dense, cost effective, and longer lasting.

With the rise in the production of portable electronics and electric vehicles throughout the world, lithium-ion batteries are in high demand. According to Ilias Belharouak, ORNL’s scientist leading the NFA research and development, more than 100 million electric vehicles are anticipated to be on the road by 2030. Cobalt is a metal currently needed for the cathode which makes up the significant portion of a lithium-ion battery’s cost. Cobalt is rare and largely mined overseas, making it difficult to acquire and produce cathodes. As a result, finding an alternative material to cobalt that can be manufactured cost effectively has become a lithium-ion battery research priority.

“Lithium nickelate has long been researched as the material of choice for making cathodes, but it suffers from intrinsic structural and electrochemical instabilities,” Belharouak said. “In our research, we replaced some of the nickel with iron and aluminum to enhance the cathode’s stability. Iron and aluminum are cost-effective, sustainable and environmentally friendly materials.” Future research and development on the NFA class will include testing the materials in large-format cells to validate the lab-scale results and further explore the suitability of these cathodes for use in electric vehicles.

You can read more in the original paper (this version is adapted and abridged from Source DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory. “New class of cobalt-free cathodes could enhance energy density of next-gen lithium-ion batteries.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 December 2020.).

Muralidharan, N., Essehli, R., Hermann, R.P., Parejiya, A., Amin, R., Bai, Y., Du, Z. and Belharouak, I., 2020. LiNixFeyAlzO2, a new cobalt-free layered cathode material for advanced Li-ion batteries. Journal of Power Sources471, p.228389.