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 of nickel-, iron-, and aluminum (NFA)-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. 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.
Researchers tested the performance of the new cathodes and determined they are promising substitutes for cobalt-based cathodes. They used neutron diffraction, Mossbauer spectroscopy, and other advanced characterization techniques to investigate NFA’s atomic and micro structures as well as electrochemical properties. The cathodes undergo similar electrochemical reactions as cobalt-based cathodes and deliver high enough specific capacities to meet the battery energy density demands. The new cathode has similar or better electrochemical characteristics than cobalt-based cathodes while utilizing lower-cost raw materials.
Not only does NFA perform as well as cobalt-based cathodes but the process to manufacture the NFA cathodes can be integrated into existing global cathode manufacturing processes. 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 the cathodes for use in electric vehicles.