Promising Lithium Production from US Sedimentary Deposits – America’s ‘Lithium Valley’ may be Key to New Energy Economy

Lithium is an essential component of electric vehicle batteries which occurs abundantly in the Earth’s crust in many different forms, roughly classified as pegmatites (“hard rock”), brines, and sedimentary deposits (which you may sometimes hear erroneously generalized as “clays”)

America’s Lithium Valley

Do you think driving a Tesla or plugging-in to solar power are environmentally-conscious choices? Then you should know it’s almost certain the batteries in those systems traveled around the world two or three times before they were even installed. That’s not very “green,” is it? Lithium-ion batteries, found in so many things we use every day, often have a rather costly carbon footprint. That could soon change with a discovery that’s just a couple hours north of Tesla’s Gigafactory. A Canadian mining company, LithiumAmericas, identified what’s one of the world’s largest lithium deposits inside the footprint of an ancient volcano. NBCLX Storyteller Chase Cain takes us to the ancient volcano in Nevada that could hold the future of a green energy boom in the West.

Currently, only pegmatite and brine resources are used to produce lithium chemical products commercially.

But a host of new players aiming to produce lithium using sedimentary deposits in Western North America and around the world are coming on the scene.

The sedimentary deposit projects claim to take advantage of favorable chemistry of processing the sediments, sometimes described as the “best of both worlds” when compared to pegmatites and brines. In this article, I will share what are some of the most promising features of sedimentary deposit projects, who’s working on developing these deposits, and why investors and mainstream capital markets should take them seriously as future sources of lithium chemical products. It will be helpful to understand some of the pros and cons of processing pegmatites and brines into lithium chemical products to understand the “best of both worlds” argument for the sedimentary deposits.


In pegmatites, lithium is strongly bound in crystal structures like aluminosilicates (Al, Si oxides) and because the lithium is so tightly bound in the structure, the mineral requires aggressive processing to remove it to make lithium chemicals.

Spodumene [(LiAl(SiO3)2] is the most widely mined lithium-bearing pegmatite, and has been successfully developed into a significant source of lithium commercially (representing around half of global supply in 2019). It is first dug up and crushed to smaller pieces. The crushed material is then “upgraded” to remove waste materials from the mine that are not spodumene and don’t contain lithium. Once upgraded, calcination (heating to ~1,000°C) is used to convert the crystal to a different structure that is more amenable to removing the lithium.

These high temperatures are typically generated using coal or natural gas, meaning the carbon footprint of roasting pegmatites is typically higher than processing of other lithium resources.

The roasting is a fundamental aspect of extraction of lithium from spodumene because of their crystal structure, and it is difficult to get around this. Some other pegmatites may not require this roasting step however.

img_1752 Lithium Mining in Nevada

This calcination process is followed by a chemical treatment to extract the lithium. This gives a mostly pure lithium concentrate (called the leachate) which can be refined into lithium chemical products with a relatively simple technological approach involving addition of chemicals.

Pegmatites are a good source of lithium because they are easy to manipulate from a mining engineering perspective, and the leachate obtained from the chemical treatment isn’t heavily contaminated with elements with similar chemical characteristics to lithium (ex. alkali/alkaline earths like Na, K, Mg, Ca, Sr), meaning the impurities are easy to remove from the leachate. The waste produced from spodumene operations can be simply put aside or used for other applications like concrete manufacturing and other applications.

Lithium can be produced from other minerals like lepidolite and zinnwaldite using similar flowsheets to spodumene, but some modifications are required depending on the unique mineralogy.


Brine resources are very different from pegmatites from a lithium extraction and processing perspective.

Brines are high concentration salty reservoirs in which salts are dissolved (ex. Li, Na, K, Mg, Ca, Sr are common cations, or positively charged species, while Cl, SO4, BO3, and CO3 are common anions, or negatively charged species, in these resources). The minerals in brines start off as volcanic materials but over millions of years, rain and geochemical phenomena cause them to dissolve in water and concentrate in basins. Brines can be as high as 20-40% salt by mass, meaning that if you were to evaporate away the water from the brine, around 20-40% of the mass would be left behind as white or clear crystals.


Read More: US Lithium Mining May Get a Boost …

Brines are liquid, meaning that they need to be pumped to the surface for processing, not dug up and crushed like pegmatites are mined. This means that they do not require roasting or leaching operations to put the lithium into solution for further processing – the lithium is already dissolved. There are two ways to remove lithium from brines.

First, evaporation pond systems can be used to evaporate the water from the brine, leaving behind contaminant salts and an “end brine” of mostly lithium chloride which is processed into lithium carbonate by adding sodium carbonate. This process only works for high lithium concentration brines with low impurities in places with no rainfall, and there is concern that if brine is pumped out from too deep in the salar, freshwater may be sucked in, diluting the salar and destroying potable water resources used by humans.

Second, direct lithium extraction (DLE) processes can be used to remove lithium from the natural brine to produce a highly pure concentrate, leaving behind a “spent brine” containing all the original components of the natural brine but without the lithium. This spent brine needs to be reinjected and/or separated from the natural brine so that the two don’t mix, or else the natural lithium-bearing brine will be diluted by the spent brine containing no lithium, making it impossible to extract more lithium from the reservoir.


Sedimentary Deposits

As mentioned above, sedimentary deposits are considered to share some of the positive attributes of both pegmatites and brines. Sedimentary deposits are created when lithium is washed out of volcanic materials into basins where the salts and minerals dry, creating chemical structures in which the lithium is bound up in a mineral, but much less strongly compared to pegmatite resources. They typically have the consistency of dirt, not hard rock, and often break up when placed in water. If the lithium was not bound in a mineral at all, it would wash out in water forming a brine (this is typically not observed).

A number of leading projects are proposing not using any roasting, meaning the lithium is bound in the mineral with an “intermediate” strength compared to pegmatites and brines. A chemical leach is used to extract the lithium from the sediment, after which the waste sediment can be stored in mounds or back-filled into an open pit.

The lack of requirement to roast the sediment is a positive asset for these resources because it means that natural gas pipelines may not necessarily need to be built to process the sediment. Some projects report requiring upgrading of the sediment ore to remove contaminants which would “unnecessarily” consume acid, and in October 2019, only one project is proposing to use a roasting step in their flowsheet. The benefit of processing a sediment containing “loosely bound” lithium is that the solid waste can be easily disposed of without diluting the original resource, similar to the waste materials from after removing lithium from pegmatites.

The sedimentary deposit projects have some promising attributes for a future of supplying lithium to the battery industry, but reagent inputs will need to be optimized thoroughly for each individual project. Every sediment is different and the flowsheets of the different projects may look quite different. The chemistry of the sediments varies significantly (which is also the case for brines), and each project will need to take this into account. Currently, most public pre-feasibility studies show that tens to hundreds of times excess of reagents are used to create the lithium leachates. This implies low lithium concentrations in the leachate compared to pegmatite-derived leachates, and high concentrations of impurities like Na, K, and Mg.

This explains why most projects currently propose by-product sales to reduce apparent OPEX (electricity, sulfuric acid, boric acid, potash, etc.) because these are likely high OPEX flowsheets if they were “pure play” lithium.

Further, the high porosity and low particle size of the sediments mean that they “hold on” to leachate during leaching, and solid/liquid separations will be key to extracting most of the lithium as leachate from the spent ore. When this is done poorly, the ore “gums up” and a significant amount of lithium is lost with the waste.

The “in between” strength of how lithium is chemically bound in sediments results in some of their “best of both world” characteristics when compared to brines and pegmatites, and these strengths should be taken advantage of in future flowsheet development. New leaching techniques and reagent management flowsheets may be helpful in unlocking these sedimentary materials to produce high lithium concentration, low impurity concentration leachates that can be more easily processed into battery quality lithium chemical products. The sedimentary deposit lithium projects are young, but I believe that some of them will be built in the near future.

The healthy mining jurisdiction of Western North America, proximity of the deposits to American battery manufacturers, and potential for low carbon intensity means that they have excellent potential for helping supply lithium for batteries in the near future, and that they should be followed closely.

A map of these projects is seen below.



Thanks to all those who influenced this article through including Anna WallTom BensonGene Morgan, and Davd-Deak

Lithium Battery Dreams Get a Rude Awakening in South America

  • Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile seek to join industry boom
  • They hold 70% of reserves, but don’t make a single battery

South America controls about 70% of the world’s reserves of lithium, the metal used in rechargeable batteries for mobile phones and electric vehicles, but none of the infrastructure needed to put it to work.

Lithium refining and battery-assembling facilities could help kick start industries in economies that are largely dependent on commodities for revenue, putting them at risk from sharp price swings.

But so far, public and private initiatives in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil and Chile have failed to deliver even a single lithium cell factory. And none are set to be built through 2025.

Chile, the world’s second-largest lithium producer behind Australia, offers perhaps the best example of an effort gone off track. A $285 million lithium-cell project by two Korea-based companies was canceled in June when plunging lithium prices undercut government incentives on the metal.

Meanwhile, a local company that assembles batteries using components from abroad is struggling to get lithium cells to support their sales in Chile.

“The size of the opportunity is huge,” said James Ellis, the head of Latin America research at BloombergNEF. “It makes sense to try to move up the value chain. But when you look at what’s planned globally, there are no battery manufacturing assets in Latin America.”

Other countries in the region face their own challenges. Here’s a breakdown:


The third-largest lithium producer also saw a state-sponsored initiative stall.

Last year, Italy’s Seri Industrial SpA formed a joint venture with state-owned JEMSE, or more formally the Jujuy Energy and Mining State Society. The plan was to build a plant to make lithium cathodes and cells, and assemble battery parts, using raw lithium mined in Argentina’s Jujuy province.

But Argentina’s economic crisis and the possibility that Peronist candidate Alberto Fernandez could win the upcoming presidential elections has, in the words of JEMSE President Carlos Oehler, “cooled all investment projects in Argentina, including building a battery factory.”

The land and permits are ready, Oehler said, “and we were starting to look for financing, but the project is frozen now.”


In Latin America’s biggest economy, former Tesla Inc. executive Marco Krapels and former SunEdison Inc. executive Peter Conklin founded MicroPower-Comerc with the initial goal of providing rechargeable batteries to commercial and industrial facilities. But Brazil offers almost no government subsidies for renewable energy, and import taxes add about 65% to the cost of the batteries.

That’s driven the company, which is backed by Siemens AG, to consider buying components abroad and assembling them in Brazil as a way to lower their costs.

While the nation’s market for big batteries barely exists, Krapels sees opportunity in a place with an occasionally unstable power grid and a robust market for wind and solar. “This is not for the faint of heart,” he said in an interview last month. “But I think there’s an advantage on being the first to move into a market.”


Bolivia hasn’t managed to produce significant volumes of lithium or lithium products. But it is home to the world’s largest salt flat, covering 6,437 kilometers (4,000 square miles), and holding more than 15% of the world’s unmined lithium resources.

A machine loads soil into a truck during the construction at the Uyuni salt flat in Bolivia. Photographer: Marcelo Perez del Carpio/Bloomberg

A pilot plant run by state-owned Yacimientos de Litio Bolivianos, or YLB, produced close to 250 tons of lithium carbonate in 2018, and the country’s goal is to generate 150,000 tons within five years, partnered with German and Chinese companies. If it succeeds, Bolivia would become one of the top-producing nations.

Last month, Industrias Quantum Motors SA began sales of the first car ever built in the country, an electric vehicle that answered President Evo Morales’s once-cited wish to see a lithium-powered car “made in Bolivia.”

The problem? Eager buyers aren’t allowed to drive the cars on Bolivia highways until the government can change some existing regulations.


The lithium producer tried to encourage battery companies to build factories in the country by forcing miners to sell lithium at a discount. That attracted interest from giants including Samsung SDI Co. and Posco in 2017, when lithium prices were at historic highs.

But since then, prices have fallen by a third, and earlier this year the companies abandoned their plans to build.

Even those embarked in less ambitious initiatives are facing hurdles. In Chile’s south, Andesvolt currently imports battery components from abroad and assembles them in the southern city of Valdivia.

It supplies lithium-ion batteries for electricity companies including Enel Americas SA, which installs them as back-up power in industrial, commercial and residential facilities across the country.

Andesvolt expects to produce 1,000 kilowatt-hour this year, up from 200 kilowatt-hour last year. But he is finding it so difficult to import lithium cells that he is considering building South America’s first lithium-cell factory.

Dealing with the hiccups of importing the cells from China is just too much, founder and Chief Executive Officer David Ulloa said.

Lithium cells are highly volatile and can explode if not handled properly, which means shipping companies are often reluctant to transport them. Even when they do, there’s no guarantee the cargo will arrive on time — or arrive at all.

“We’ve seen it all,” Ulloa said in an interview. “Once a Chinese supplier didn’t do any of the paperwork needed for Chilean customs and later offered to disguise the cargo as shoes — we’re a serious company, we couldn’t accept that and we lost that shipment.”

Eco-Friendly Desalination using MOF’s could Supply the Lithium needed to Manufacture Batteries required to Mainstream EV’s

A new water purification (desalination) technology could be the key to more electric cars. How?

“Eco-Friendly Mining” of world’s the oceans for the vast amounts of lithium required for EV batteries, could “mainstream” our acceptance (affordability and accessibility) of Electric Vehicles and provide clean water – forecast to be in precious short supply in many parts of the World in the not so distant future.

energy_storage_2013-042216-_11-13-1Humanity is going to need a lot of lithium batteries if electric cars are going to take over, and that presents a problem when there’s only so much lithium available from conventional mines.

A potential solution is being researched that turns the world’s oceans into eco-friendly “Lithium supply mines.”

Scientists have outlined a desalination technique that would use metal-organic frameworks (sponge-like structures with very high surface areas) with sub-nanometer pores to catch lithium ions while purifying ocean water.

The approach mimics the tendency of cell membranes to selectively dehydrate and carry ions, leaving the lithium behind while producing water you can drink.


While the concept of extracting lithium from our oceans certainly isn’t new, this new technology method would be much more efficient and environmentally friendly.

Instead of tearing up the landscape to find mineral deposits, battery makers would simply have to deploy enough filters.

It could even be used to make the most of water when pollution does take place — recovering lithium from the waste water at shale gas fields.

This method will require more research and development before it’s ready for real-world use.

However, the implications are already clear. If this desalination approach reaches sufficient scale, the world would have much more lithium available for electric vehicles, phones and other battery-based devices. It would also reduce the environmental impact of those devices. storedot-ev-battery-21-889x592 (1)

While some say current lithium mining practices negates some of the eco-friendliness of an EV, this “purification for Lithium” approach could let you drive relatively guilt-free

Reposted from Jonathan Fingas – Engadget

“Crumpled” Graphene Balls Could Improve Batteries’ Performance by Preventing Lithium Dendrite Growth: Northwestern University


Crumpled Graphene NewsImage_36035Jiaxing Huang discovered crumpled graphene balls six years ago. (Image credit: Jiaxing Huang)

Lithium metal-based batteries have the potential to revolutionize the battery sector. With the theoretically ultra-high capacity of lithium metal used by itself, this new type of battery can be employed to power everything from personal gadgets to cars.

“In current batteries, lithium is usually atomically distributed in another material such as graphite or silicon in the anode,” explains Northwestern Engineering’s Jiaxing Huang. “But using an additional material ‘dilutes’ the battery’s performance. Lithium is already a metal, so why not use lithium by itself?”

The answer is a research challenge that scientists have spent years attempting to overcome. As lithium gets charged and discharged in a battery, it begins to grow dendrites and filaments, “which causes a number of problems,” Huang said. “At best, it leads to rapid degradation of the battery’s performance. At worst, it causes the battery to short or even catch fire.”Northwestern-Hero

One existing solution to avoid lithium’s destructive dendrites is to employ a porous scaffold, such as those made from carbon materials, on which lithium preferentially deposits. Then during battery charging, lithium can deposit along the surface of the scaffold, bypassing dendrite growth. This, however, introduces a new issue. As lithium deposits onto and then dissolves from the porous support as the battery cycles, its volume wavers significantly. This volume fluctuation causes stress that could break the porous support.

Huang and his collaborators have deciphered this problem by choosing a different approach — one that even makes batteries lighter weight and able to contain more lithium.

The answer lies in a scaffold composed of crumpled graphene balls, which can stack with ease to form a porous scaffold, because of their paper ball-like shape. They not only prevent dendrite growth but can also survive the stress from the wavering volume of lithium. The research was featured on the cover of the January edition of the journal Joule.

“One general philosophy for making something that can maintain high stress is to make it so strong that it’s unbreakable,” said Huang, professor of materials science and engineering in Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering. “Our strategy is based on an opposite idea. Instead of trying to make it unbreakable, our scaffold is made of loosely stacked particles that can readily restack.”

Huang discovered crumpled graphene balls six years ago.  Crumpled graphene balls are novel ultrafine particles that look like crumpled paper balls. He formed the particles by atomizing a dispersion of graphene-based sheets into minute water droplets. When the water droplets evaporated, they produced a capillary force that crumpled the sheets into miniaturized paper balls.

crumpling-graphene-electronics-Illinois-img_assist-350x197In Huang’s team’s battery, the crumpled graphene scaffold houses the fluctuation of lithium as it cycles between the cathode and anode. The crumpled balls can travel apart when lithium deposits and then freely assemble back together when the lithium is depleted. Since minute paper balls are conductive and allow lithium ions to flow quickly along their surface, the scaffold forms a continuously conductive, porous, dynamic network for lithium.

“Closely packed, the crumpled graphene balls operate like a highly uniform, continuous solid,” said Jiayan Luo, the paper’s co-corresponding author and professor of chemical engineering at Tianjin University in China. “We also found that the crumpled graphene balls do not form clusters but instead are quite evenly distributed.”

Formerly advised by Huang, Luo received his PhD in materials science and engineering in 2013. Currently as a professor and researcher at Tianjin University, Luo continues to partner with Huang.

In contrast to batteries that use graphite as the host material in the anode, Huang’s solution is a lot lighter in weight and can stabilize a higher load of lithium during cycling. While typical batteries encapsulate lithium that measures only tens of microns in thickness, Huang’s battery holds lithium stacked 150 µm high.

Huang and his collaborators have filed a provisional patent via Northwestern’s Innovation and New Ventures Office (INVO).

The National Natural Science Foundation of China, the Natural Science Foundation of Tianjin, China, the State Key Laboratory of Chemical Engineering, and the Office of Naval Research supported the research.


Next-generation Lithium-Sulphur smart battery inspired by Our Stomachs: Proof of Principle for Now

new-lithium-battery-102616-id44921A new prototype of a lithium-sulphur battery – which could have five times the energy density of a typical lithium-ion battery – overcomes one of the key hurdles preventing their commercial development by mimicking the structure of the cells which allow us to absorb nutrients.

Researchers have developed a prototype of a next-generation lithium-sulphur battery which takes its inspiration in part from the cells lining the human intestine. The batteries, if commercially developed, would have five times the energy density of the lithium-ion batteries used in smartphones and other electronics.



The new design, by researchers from the University of Cambridge, overcomes one of the key technical problems hindering the commercial development of lithium-sulphur batteries, by preventing the degradation of the battery caused by the loss of material within it. The results are reported in the journal Advanced Functional Materials (“Advanced Lithium-Sulfur Batteries Enabled by a Bio-Inspired Polysulfide Adsorptive Brush”).


Computer visualisation of villi-like battery material
Computer visualisation of villi-like battery material. (Image: Teng Zhao)


Working with collaborators at the Beijing Institute of Technology, the Cambridge researchers based in Dr Vasant Kumar’s team in the Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy developed and tested a lightweight nanostructured material which resembles villi, the finger-like protrusions which line the small intestine. In the human body, villi are used to absorb the products of digestion and increase the surface area over which this process can take place.
In the new lithium-sulphur battery, a layer of material with a villi-like structure, made from tiny zinc oxide wires, is placed on the surface of one of the battery’s electrodes. This can trap fragments of the active material when they break off, keeping them electrochemically accessible and allowing the material to be reused.
“It’s a tiny thing, this layer, but it’s important,” said study co-author Dr Paul Coxon from Cambridge’s Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy. “This gets us a long way through the bottleneck which is preventing the development of better batteries.”
A typical lithium-ion battery is made of three separate components: an anode (negative electrode), a cathode (positive electrode) and an electrolyte in the middle. The most common materials for the anode and cathode are graphite and lithium cobalt oxide respectively, which both have layered structures. Positively-charged lithium ions move back and forth from the cathode, through the electrolyte and into the anode.
The crystal structure of the electrode materials determines how much energy can be squeezed into the battery. For example, due to the atomic structure of carbon, each carbon atom can take on six lithium ions, limiting the maximum capacity of the battery.
Sulphur and lithium react differently, via a multi-electron transfer mechanism meaning that elemental sulphur can offer a much higher theoretical capacity, resulting in a lithium-sulphur battery with much higher energy density. However, when the battery discharges, the lithium and sulphur interact and the ring-like sulphur molecules transform into chain-like structures, known as a poly-sulphides. As the battery undergoes several charge-discharge cycles, bits of the poly-sulphide can go into the electrolyte, so that over time the battery gradually loses active material.
The Cambridge researchers have created a functional layer which lies on top of the cathode and fixes the active material to a conductive framework so the active material can be reused. The layer is made up of tiny, one-dimensional zinc oxide nanowires grown on a scaffold. The concept was trialled using commercially-available nickel foam for support. After successful results, the foam was replaced by a lightweight carbon fibre mat to reduce the battery’s overall weight.
“Changing from stiff nickel foam to flexible carbon fibre mat makes the layer mimic the way small intestine works even further,” said study co-author Dr Yingjun Liu.
This functional layer, like the intestinal villi it resembles, has a very high surface area. The material has a very strong chemical bond with the poly-sulphides, allowing the active material to be used for longer, greatly increasing the lifespan of the battery.
“This is the first time a chemically functional layer with a well-organised nano-architecture has been proposed to trap and reuse the dissolved active materials during battery charging and discharging,” said the study’s lead author Teng Zhao, a PhD student from the Department of Materials Science & Metallurgy. “By taking our inspiration from the natural world, we were able to come up with a solution that we hope will accelerate the development of next-generation batteries.”
For the time being, the device is a proof of principle, so commercially-available lithium-sulphur batteries are still some years away. Additionally, while the number of times the battery can be charged and discharged has been improved, it is still not able to go through as many charge cycles as a lithium-ion battery. However, since a lithium-sulphur battery does not need to be charged as often as a lithium-ion battery, it may be the case that the increase in energy density cancels out the lower total number of charge-discharge cycles.
“This is a way of getting around one of those awkward little problems that affects all of us,” said Coxon. “We’re all tied in to our electronic devices – ultimately, we’re just trying to make those devices work better, hopefully making our lives a little bit nicer.”
Source: University of Cambridge


The battery of the future: Scientists investigate extremely fast ion conductors

id31611(Nanowerk News) Only since April of this year have  experts been researching batteries of the future at the Christian-Doppler (CD)  Laboratory for lithium batteries at the Institute of Chemistry and Technology of  Materials of Graz University of Technology – and they are already attracting  attention with their pioneering results. Using detailed magnetic resonance  measurements, they were able to prove the ultra-fast lithium ion dynamics of a  superb conductor being suitable, e.g., for solid-state batteries. Solid-sate  lithium-ion batteries are the great white hope in terms of storage capacity,  durability and safety. The results of the doctoral thesis of Viktor Epp were  recently published in the prestigious Journal of Physical Chemistry  Letters (“Highly Mobile Ions: Low Temperature NMR Directly  Probes Extremely Fast Li+ Hopping in Argyrodite-type Li6PSe5Br”).
Not only the sustainability of the success of electro-mobility,  but also the development of high-performance cell phones and notebooks make high  demands on battery systems. Higher storage capacities, safety and  ever-increasing durability are some of the demands they have to live up to.  Solid-state lithium-ion batteries are one of the great white hopes in battery  research. Compared to conventional lithium-ion batteries with liquid  electrolytes, these so-called “all-solid-state“ batteries are ahead of the game  as regards safety, operational life span and thermal stability. For this reason,  researchers all over the world in the fields of solid-state chemistry, physics  and materials science have been under pressure to find suitable, solid-state ion  conductors for use in such batteries.
In his doctoral thesis, Viktor Epp, from Graz University of  Technology’s Institute of Chemistry and Technology of Materials, looked more  closely at the sulphide Li6PSe5Br  which was prepared in the well-known working group of Hans-Jörg Deiseroth at the  University of Siegen. Using lithium nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, as  it is carried out in the CD Laboratory in Martin Wilkening’s group, he came to a  remarkable result which confirmed earlier preliminary work: the lithium ions in  the investigated sulphide move extremely quickly. This qualifies Li6PS5Br as a  front runner among solid-state electrolytes which could be used in solid-state  batteries.
“Hopping” atoms: a billion jumps per second
The observed “hopping process” of the lithium ions in Li6PS5Br  have proved to be remarkable. With ambient-temperature rates of more than one  billion jumps per second, the ions in the investigated sulphide show an  extremely high mobility. Such mobility has also been shown in other lithium  compounds, however, many of the materials are not only ionically but also  electronically conductive – and can thus be excluded as solid-state  electrolytes. At first glance, the basic principle of electrochemical energy  storage in a lithium-ion battery is relatively easily to understand. During  charging and discharging of the battery, the ions move between both poles, thus  passing through structurally different materials. In the case of a solid-state  lithium-ion battery, a solid, such as a lithium-containing oxide or a sulphide,  takes on the role of a conductive electrolyte.
“The more we know about the nature of the charge carrier  transport in solids, the more evident it will become, which materials are most  suitably for the future development of batteries“, explains Martin Wilkening,  who, along with his team in the CD Laboratory, is dedicated to the investigation  of microstructures and dynamic processes in new battery materials.
Source: Technical University Graz

Read more:

Better Batteries May Spark New Consumer Devices, Cars

QDOTS imagesCAKXSY1K 8BASF (BASFY), Toyota  (TM) and IBM  (IBM) are among companies placing sizable  early bets on next-generation batteries that could better power things big or  small, such as electric cars or maybe wristwatch computers, according to Lux  Research analyst Cosmin Laslau. But not for a while.

First the new batteries might get a real-world test powering unmanned aerial  vehicles — drones and microvehicles — for the military, he says, as it’s a case  where the customer might be willing to pay double for a 10% improvement in power  for the weight. Several new technologies could deliver up to 10 times more  energy than today’s batteries, Lux Research says in a new report.

The current Lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery market is worth north of $10  billion, Laslau says. But for now applications are limited at the small end by  how much power output the batteries have for their size — think of how much  space the battery of an Apple (AAPL)  iPhone takes up. On the big end of applications are electric cars, where the  cost of a large-enough battery to provide a useful number of miles in driving  range is a limiting factor. Size is an issue there, too.

“When you get to large size like say a Tesla (TSLA)  electric vehicle, in order to get the range people want … it might cost  $30,000 for the battery alone,” Laslau said.

The report, “Beyond Lithium-Ion: A Roadmap for Next-Generation Batteries,”  that Laslau put together with two contributors sees military users as the entry  point for next-gen batteries around 2020 and consumer electronics adopting new  solid-state batteries by 2030, but it’s a hard sell for next-gen batteries in  transportation to unseat Li-ion batteries. Meanwhile, research and other kinds  of gains are expected to continue improving those and push down costs.

The next-gen battery types that could be Li-ion alternatives go by names such as Lithium-air, Lithium-sulfur, Solid-state (ceramic or polymer) and Zinc-air. They have different safety and power profiles, with solid-state having a safety edge. Several startups, such as PolyPlus, Sion Power and Oxis Energy, are working on next-gen types, and Laslau says one hard part is translating them from prototype to production. BASF has put $50 million into Sion, he adds.

The report notes that giants such as IBM, Bosch, Toyota and BMW are active in  battery research — and the last two recently partnered on it.

Some government-backed battery startups “have failed spectacularly,” Laslau  said, with A123 Systems the prime example.

“Now the U.S. has changed tack and put $120 million into Argonne National  Lab’s JCESR, the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research,” he said. It will  focus on fundamental R&D rather than making bets on startups.

“We think this is a very promising development,” Laslau said, noting that the  lab is also partnering “with really well-established companies like Johnson  Controls (JCI) that have the expertise to  mass-produce any prototypes.” Other partners include Dow  Chemical (DOW) and Applied  Materials (AMAT).

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Hybrid ribbons a gift for powerful batteries: Vanadium oxide – graphene material works well for lithium-ion storage


Hybrid ribbons a gift for powerful batteries: Vanadium oxide – graphene material works well for lithium-ion storage

QDOTS imagesCAKXSY1K 8The Rice University lab of materials scientist Pulickel Ajayan determined that the well-studied material is a superior cathode for batteries that could supply both high energy density and significant power density. The research appears online this month in the American Chemical Society journal Nano Letters. The ribbons created at Rice are thousands of times thinner than a sheet of paper, yet have potential that far outweighs current materials for their ability to charge and discharge very quickly. Cathodes built into half-cells for testing at Rice fully charged and discharged in 20 seconds and retained more than 90 percent of their initial capacity after more than 1,000 cycles. “This is the direction battery research is going, not only for something with high energy density but also high power density,” Ajayan said. “It’s somewhere between a battery and a supercapacitor.”


Hydrothermal processing of vanadium pentoxide and graphene oxide creates graphene-coated ribbons of crystalline vanadium oxide, which show great potential as ultrafast charging and discharging electrodes for lithium-ion batteries. Credit: Ajayan Group/Rice University

The ribbons also have the advantage of using relatively abundant and cheap materials. “This is done through a very simple hydrothermal process, and I think it would be easily scalable to large quantities,” he said. Ajayan said vanadium oxide has long been considered a material with great potential, and in fact vanadium pentoxide has been used in lithium-ion batteries for its special structure and high capacity.

But oxides are slow to charge and discharge, due to their low electrical conductivity. The high-conductivity graphene lattice that is literally baked in solves that problem nicely, he said, by serving as a speedy conduit for electrons and channels for ions.

The atom-thin graphene sheets bound to the crystals take up very little bulk. In the best samples made at Rice, fully 84 percent of the cathode’s weight was the lithium-slurping VO2, which held 204 milliamp hours of energy per gram. The researchers, led by Rice graduate student Yongji Gong and lead author Shubin Yang, said they believe that to be among the best overall performance ever seen for lithium-ion battery electrodes. “One challenge to production was controlling the conditions for the co-synthesis of VO2 ribbons with graphene,” Yang said.

The process involved suspending graphene oxide nanosheets with powdered vanadium pentoxide (layered vanadium oxide, with two atoms of vanadium and five of oxygen) in water and heating it in an autoclave for hours. The vanadium pentoxide was completely reduced to VO2, which crystallized into ribbons, while the graphene oxide was reduced to graphene, Yang said.

The ribbons, with a web-like coating of graphene, were only about 10 nanometers thick, up to 600 nanometers wide and tens of micrometers in length. “These ribbons were the building blocks of the three-dimensional architecture,” Yang said. “This unique structure was favorable for the ultrafast diffusion of both lithium ions and electrons during charge and discharge processes. It was the key to the achievement of excellent electrochemical performance.”

In testing the new material, Yang and Gong found its capacity for lithium storage remained stable after 200 cycles even at high temperatures (167 degrees Fahrenheit) at which other cathodes commonly decay, even at low charge-discharge rates. “We think this is real progress in the development of cathode materials for high-power lithium-ion batteries,” Ajayan said, suggesting the ribbons’ ability to be dispersed in a solvent might make them suitable as a component in the paintable batteries developed in his lab.

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Journal reference: Nano Letters