New technology could wean the battery world off cobalt

Posted: April 12, 2018 by oldbrew in innovation, research

Lithium ion battery

Of course the ‘could’ in the headline tells us this has yet to be proven beyond the laboratory, and many of these battery claims seem to fizzle out in the end, or may be overtaken by newer ideas. But a professor here is saying: “We’ve opened up a new chemical space for battery technology”.

A research team led by scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, has opened the door to using metals other than cobalt in lithium-based batteries, and have built cathodes with 50 percent more lithium-storage capacity than conventional materials, reports EurekAlert.

Lithium-based batteries use more than 50 percent of all cobalt produced in the world. These batteries are in your cell phone, laptop and maybe even your car.

About 50 percent of the world’s cobalt comes from the Congo, where it’s largely mined by hand, in some instances by children.

But now, a research team led by scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, has opened the door to using other metals in lithium-based batteries, and have built cathodes with 50 percent more lithium-storage capacity than conventional materials.

“We’ve opened up a new chemical space for battery technology,” said senior author Gerbrand Ceder, professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Berkeley. “For the first time we have a really cheap element that can do a lot of electron exchange in batteries.”

The study will be published in the April 12 edition of the journal Nature. The work was a collaboration between scientists at UC Berkeley, Berkeley Lab, Argonne National Lab, MIT and UC Santa Cruz.

In today’s lithium-based batteries, lithium ions are stored in cathodes (the negatively charged electrode), which are layered structures. Cobalt is crucial to maintaining this layered structure. When a battery is charged, lithium ions are pulled from the cathode into the other side of the battery cell, the anode. The absence of lithium in the cathode leaves a lot of space. Most metal ions would flock into that space, which would cause the cathode to lose its structure. But cobalt is one of the few elements that won’t move around, making it critical to the battery industry.

In 2014, Ceder’s lab discovered a way that cathodes can maintain a high energy density without these layers, a concept called disordered rock salts. The new study shows how manganese can work within this concept, which is a promising step away from cobalt dependence because manganese is found in dirt, making it a cheap element.

“To deal with the resource issue of cobalt, you have to go away from this layeredness in cathodes,” Ceder said. “Disordering cathodes has allowed us to play with a lot more of the periodic table.”

Continued here.

  1. ivan says:

    All this emphasis on batteries is putting the cart before the horse. They should be concentrating on the production of very cheap reliable base load electricity, that way they would be able to charge all these ‘new improved’ batteries.

    Until they find a way of producing electricity 24/7/365 that costs less than 1 cent/pence per kilowatt hour to the consumer all they are doing is virtue-signalling.

  2. JB says:

    “…manganese is found in dirt…” One should not have to think about this for more than a split second.

    “Disordering cathodes has allowed us to play with a lot more of the periodic table.”

    It sure appears that more than just cathodes are disordered here.

  3. oldbrew says:

    ‘manganese is found in dirt’…

    Manganese is one of the most abundant metals in soils, where it occurs as oxides and hydroxides

    Read more:

  4. Really interesting to read that 50% of the world’s cobalt comes from the Congo. I’ve been reading about the shift to a Low Carbon Society recently and how we can facilitate this change in developing countries.

    I also worked with someone who worked on Lithium exploration in Portugal, a lot of the Lithium in the world comes from pegmatites there.

    Great article!

  5. oldbrew says:

    Family flee home after their £56,000 Volvo hybrid car bursts into flames while charging on their driveway
    APRIL 12, 2018

    The £56,000 car was destroyed and caused £3,000 worth of damage to the family home in Birmingham
    . . .
    The owner runs a battery recycling company.

    So much for Volvo safety :/
    – – –
    Mail Online: Mr Freeman says he used a Volvo approved company to install the charging point at his home, paying £850, with £500 of that money being granted by the government as part of their low-emission vehicle plug-in grant.

  6. Oldbrew, a good lesson for all those in support of the green scams. From Wiki .It seems that Volvo car company was bought by Ford in 1999. They have announced that future models will be hybrids or fully electric. I wonder if that plan will now change. I have been to Gothenburg where Volvo Sweden is located used to be a nice city. Also been to Malmo which is now over run by immigrants (moslems). and there are many no go areas. I wonder if Volvo are employing many immigrants. Many some are sabotaging some of the cars made by a USA company.

  7. E.M.Smith says:

    There’s already a half dozen different common Lithium Battery chemistries in use. This is just “sellers puff” on the part of the researcher to promote his “disordered” electrode idea.

    My favorite is Lithium Titanate.

    Table 14: Characteristics of lithium titanate.

    Figure 15 compares the specific energy of lead-, nickel- and lithium-based systems. While Li-aluminum (NCA) is the clear winner by storing more capacity than other systems, this only applies to specific energy. In terms of specific power and thermal stability, Li-manganese (LMO) and Li-phosphate (LFP) are superior. Li-titanate (LTO) may have low capacity but this chemistry outlives most other batteries in terms of life span and also has the best cold temperature performance. Moving towards the electric powertrain, safety and cycle life will gain dominance over capacity. (LCO stands for Li-cobalt, the original Li-ion.)

    The “hype” over cobalt “shortage” is just another “running out!!!! scare story”. Ignore it.

  8. oldbrew says:

    cementafriend – Volvo is Chinese-owned since 2010.

    EMS – low capacity means more battery weight? Not so good for machinery in motion.

    Despite some researchers attempting to find a NMC (Nickel-Manganese-Cobalt) battery with zero cobalt composition, Gao estimates that at least 10% cobalt must be used in battery cathode chemistry at all times due to safety and battery longevity reasons.

  9. oldbrew says:

    Tesla is the biggest short in the US stock market
    Published 2:31 PM ET Wed, 11 April 2018

    More investors are betting against electric-car maker Tesla than any other U.S. stock, new data show.

    The dollar amount of shares shorted on Tesla increased 28 percent in the last month to $10.7 billion, according to S3 Partners. The percentage of Tesla’s available stock currently sold short exceeds 25 percent, according to FactSet.

  10. dennisambler says:

    Drivers will be allowed to drive heavier goods vehicles, if electric, because of the load space taken up by batteries. The licence increase is threequarters of a tonne, how will that play in “pothole wars”.

  11. stpaulchuck says:

    batteries are nothing but boat anchors in Minnesota and Canadian winter where temperatures often drop to minus 30 or so Fahrenheit. We have engine block heaters and battery wraps to keep from turning the entire vehicle into an ice block.

  12. oldbrew says:

    StP – good news…warmist fortune tellers can offer – 28F in future 😉

    Bad news – they may be wrong 😐
    – – –
    Tesla booted off fatal Model X crash investigation
    Apr 13, 2018

    US transport watchdog says carmaker released information before it had been ‘vetted’

    Responding to the watchdog’s statement, a Tesla spokesperson told Teslarati: “It’s been clear in our conversations with the NTSB that they’re more concerned with press headlines than actually promoting safety.”

  13. oldbrew says:

    New sodium-ion electrolyte may find use in solid-state batteries
    April 10, 2018

    “Liquid electrolytes have safety issues because they are flammable,” said Donghai Wang, associate professor of mechanical engineering, Penn State. “That has been the driving force for us to find a good material for use in solid-state batteries.”

    The team’s new material is composed of sodium, phosphorous, tin and sulfur and has a tetragonal crystal shape. It has defects, or spaces where certain sodium, tin and sulfur atoms would be, and these allow for it to transfer ions.

    Because sodium is much more abundant than lithium, a sodium-ion battery would potentially be far cheaper to produce than a lithium-ion battery. The material also would be safer to use.


  14. Gamecock says:

    Our quarterly announcement of a breakthrough in battery technology. Yawn.

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