Nano-active Electrode Materials for High Power Applications

Calix is developing an efficient, cost-competitive, and low-carbon platform technology to produce high performance, fast-charging electrode materials for lithium-ion battery and post-lithium-ion battery applications.

At the heart of this process is the Calix Flash Calcination (CFC) technology (Fig 1) which produces highly porous, nano-structured and reactive (nano-active) materials by flash calcining a micron sized powder precursor having a large mass fraction of volatiles. When lithiated, the electrode materials present a unique hierarchical porous onion (HPO) structure (Fig 2) which facilitates high charge-discharge rate applications (Fig 4).

Proof-of-concept was demonstrated with lithium manganese oxide (LMO) from flash calcined manganese carbonate (MnCO3). Calix is scaling the manufacturing process for LMO and exploring opportunities to apply this process to other electrode chemistries.

Current manufacturing and most R&D routes

• Exotic chemistries
• High purity pre-cursors

• Agglomerated nano-particles
• Long and energy intensive lithiation step
• Waste materials!

• Assembled poly- or single-crystal materials

 

Calix route

Fig 1 – Schematic of Calix Flash Calcination technology

• Ag-grade manganese carbonate micro-particles

 

• Calix flash calcination
• Controlled flash heating, oxidation
• Low waste

• Strong, flexible nano-structured micron-sized particles with controlled hierarchical meso-porosity

Lithium addition (solⁿ doping) Short thermal lithiation (≤2h)

Fig 2 – SEM image of Calix LMO presenting unique hierarchical porous onion (HPO) morphology

Fig 3 – Energy density versus power density of various cathode materials.
(Note: calculated based on weight of cathode with half cell results * Nano Research 2018, 11(8): 4038-4048)

Fig 4 – Asymmetric discharge test of LMO-graphite (LMO/Gr) single layer pouch (SLP) cell rate test results.Fig 5 – Cycle life test of full coin cell of LMO/Gr

Key benefits of Calix LMO

Superior energy and power density (Fig 3)

High power performance (Fig 4, >80% capacity retention @ 5C, full pouch cell with 2 mAh cm-2 loading)

Cycle-life testing under evaluation (Fig 5)

Much lower energy consumption (lithiation time ≤ 2h compared to typically > 12h)

Low cost of production (lower energy, cheaper precursors)

Lower CO2 footprint

 

Under the microscope – Advanced Battery Materials

This video takes a deep dive into the unique Calix battery materials and help understand why they could be a game changer for the industry, and instrumental in enabling the pathway toward transformation of the global energy sector from fossil-based to zero-carbon by the second half of this century.

 

Progress on the pouch cell and battery pack prototyping and scale-up program with AMTE

Calix has been working with AMTE Power in the UK and BatTRI-hub in Australia for the development, prototyping and scale-up program of pouch cells featuring Calix’s lithium manganese oxide (LMO) cathode active material (CAM). The program at AMTE is designed to transfer and scale up Calix LMO production technology to produce test cells for verification, which will be built into packs for testing in an identified end application, in this case, an E-scooter or E-motorcycle (Fig 1).

To supply the quantity of material for the program, the team at Bacchus Marsh have been hard at work on a campaign to produce 350kg of LMO CAM and to understand the processes required to optimise material properties (e.g. particle size distribution) to ensure success of the demonstration of the Calix technology. AMTE have started the development work around slurry mixing, coating, and calendaring (Fig 2) in the UK. The coated foils with Calix LMO were binding well to the substrate, however there were challenges around agglomeration formations during slurry preparation, leading to the rough texture of electrode films.

The team at Calix is working closely with Deakin University and AMTE to address the issue. Based on the current timeline, an E-scooter powered by the battery pack featuring Calix LMO material will be delivered to Australia in early 2023. The team at Deakin University is working on the state-of-the-art electrolyte systems that can potentially address the stability issue associated with manganese (Mn) dissolution of the LMO chemistry. At BatTRI-hub in Australia, pouch cells with up to 10 layers were made and tested with Calix LMO, to support the development and optimisation work with pouch cells.

Process flow and scale-up design work is now underway

Calix is developing plans as part of the recently awarded Recycling and Energy Storage Commercialisation Hub (REaCH) Trailblazer University Program, led by Deakin University, to deliver a 150 Tpa electrode manufacturing demonstration facility at Calix’ Global Centre for Technology Development in Victoria, Australia. Work around identifying possible process flows and the related mass-energy balances and techno-economics analysis has been initiated to pre-determine the process flow that best suits and integrates the Calix technology for manufacturing electrode materials for batteries. The project will deliver:

  • A facility capable of producing the active electrode material quantities required to supply a 50MW cell manufacturing micro-factory;
  • A blueprint for a full commercial-scale advanced electrode manufacturing plant;
  • An agile production capacity capable of producing minimum viable product (MVP) required for prospective customer and technology licensee qualification processes;
  • Improved confidence in techno-economics and production cost projections; and
  • A capability to allow continued process optimisation, material qualification, scale-up de-risking and IP development.

Fig 1 – Photos of E-scooter (a) and E-motorcycle (b) that are being considered for demonstration of battery packs featuring Calix’s LMO material.

Fig 2 – Photos of slurry mixing & coating trials at AMTE in the UK (a. slurry mix; b. coated foil; c. coating process).

New chemistries

Calix is also expanding the exploration of its technology in manufacturing new electrode chemistries. A program of work is underway to extend and adapt the Calix CAM manufacturing process to the next generation of Calix lithium-ion battery chemistries including lithium iron phosphate (LFP) and lithium nickel manganese oxide (LNMO). In addition, Calix will also be supporting a newly recruited PhD student at Deakin University through the Australian Research Council (ARC) funded storEnergy Training centre who will be exploring opportunities to apply Calix’s proprietary electrode manufacturing processes to the production of electrode materials for next-generation sodium-ion batteries.

Growing the team

The Battery team at Calix is also growing! Shammi became part of the team in January 2022. She has been leading the LFP material development project aiming to apply the methods and processes developed for LMO to manufacture of LFP as part of the new chemistry exploration program.

Duc Tai (Tommy) also joined the team in May 2022 as the Lead Process Engineer for batteries and will be responsible for battery materials scale-up at Calix. His role will involve process flow design and techno-economics analysis which are critical to ensure the processes being developed in the lab are commercially feasible.

Ehsan and Yingyi both joined Calix in May 2022 as Battery Test Engineers with extensive experience in electrochemistry and battery research. They will be responsible for coin cell fabrication and testing of battery electrode materials produced at Calix – the work will then form the electrode materials development and optimisation program at Calix.

IMLB 2022

The majority of the Battery team attended the 21st International Meeting on Lithium Batteries (IMLB) in Sydney, Australia. It is the largest lithium battery research conference of its type and is held every two years. Calix presented progress on its electrode materials development and commercialisation program to the lithium-ion battery community at the IMLB 2022 conference

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