SBIR-STTR Award

Single Step and Continuous Synthesis of Advanced Lithium Ion Positive Electrode Material Powders using UniMelt Microwave Plasma Process
Profile last edited on: 1/3/2022

Program
SBIR
Agency
DOE
Total Award Amount
$1,163,780
Award Phase
2
Principal Investigator
Kamal Hadidi
Activity Indicator

Company Information

6K Inc (AKA:Amastan Technologies Inc)

25 Commerce Way Suite 1
North Andover, MA 01845
   (978) 258-1645
   N/A
   www.6kinc.com
Multiple Locations:   
Congressional District:   06
County:   Essex

Phase I

Phase I year
2017
Phase I Amount
$154,426
The fundamental functional components within lithium ion batteries are the anode, cathode, and electrolyte. Currently, cathode material dictates battery performance and is the most expensive of the three, accounting for up to 25% of the battery pack cost. Reducing the cost of the cathode material represents a significant decrease in the cost of the battery. Cathode cost is determined mostly by raw material and production costs. The goal of the proposed project is to reduce (i) the production cost of cathode materials and (ii) the environmental footprint associated with cathode material production while maintaining high- performance. For this Phase I project, we will focus on NMC 532, which is the current industry standard for state of the art automotive batteries. We expect the underlying technology we develop in this program to be broadly applicable to all transition metal oxide cathodes, and may also result in more viable pathways to the next generation cathode materials – the so-called ni- rich NMC’s. We will accomplish our goal using Amastan’s UniMelt™ single-step continuous microwave- generated plasma materials processing technology. Unlike conventional incumbent cathode material manufacturing techniques requiring many processing steps and producing environmentally unfriendly chemical byproducts, adding to cost, the proposed process is carried out in a continuous single step without process byproduct. The UniMelt process uses solution precursor mixed at the molecular level as feedstock. The solution precursor is used to produce uniform diameter droplets that are injected into a uniform temperature electrodeless plasma column of up to 4” in diameter, where they undergo chemical reactions. This offers each precursor droplet the same thermal path and thermal history, leading to tight control of phase purity, size and size distribution of the product. The preliminary technical results of this phase will guide us to perform comprehensive cost analysis of the final cathode material production at commercial scale.

Phase II

Phase II year
2018 (last award dollars: 2018)
Phase II Amount
$1,009,354
For electric vehicles to be widely adopted as a common mode of transportation, the price of the battery packs must be reduced to $125 per kilowatt hour. Prices are currently around $200 per kilowatt our. One path to reduced cost per kilowatt hour is by reducing cathode cost and improving their energy density. Cathode materials account for up to 25% of the battery pack cost. Cost reductions can be achieved by reducing raw material costs, reducing production costs, and increasing specific capacity of cathode materials with nickel rich materials. Cathode materials will be manufactured with a single-step continuous microwave-generated plasma materials processing technology (UniMelt™) The processing technique processes each precursor droplet within the same thermal path and thermal history, leading to tight control of phase purity, size and size distribution, and performance of the product for cost effective manufacture of commercially relevant quantities of cathodes for electric vehicle batteries. Phase I work successfully met the defined objectives to validate the feasibility and versatility of UniMelt as a low-cost high-performance production method capable of producing commercially viable materials for lithium ion batteries in electric vehicles. Traditional and high energy Ni-rich cathode materials were produced using the UniMelt process, and their electrochemical performance was verified. The proposed Phase II work is aimed to reduce battery cost per kilowatt hour by: (i) demonstrating process scale-up, (ii) validating the proposed cost-models, (iii) strengthening US-based cathode end-user relationships/collaborations aimed at continuing this work beyond the Phase II timeline and into commercial production. For this Phase II project, the cathode materials of focus are high nickel content materials which are the current and upcoming industry standard rechargeable lithium batteries. Lower cost batteries help enable further adoption of sustainable technologies such as electric vehicles and grid energy storage where the purchase price per item is strongly related to the battery prices. Success of the proposed work will help reduce the overall usage of fossil fuels throughout the US and world.