Company comes with method for reducing cobalt in lithium-ion batteries

Nov

6

2018

The originally Turkish entrepreneur Kenan Sahin says that with his company CAMX Power he has patented a method that requires less cobalt in lithium-ion batteries. This would reduce the cost of batteries for electric cars and increase performance.

The invention of CAMX Power , called GEMX, involves a way to place cobalt at a molecular level at critical locations in the cathode of a battery. Despite the reduction in the amount of cobalt, this method would lead to greater stability. Furthermore, lower costs and higher performance would be possible. The latter is probably related to a higher energy density of the batteries, which can be achieved by a higher nickel content. It is not clear how GEMX works exactly. According to the company, the find is suitable for a wide range of materials for cathodes where a relatively high nickel content is used.

CAMX says it is currently in talks with major producers of materials for cathodes, to license GEMX. Opposite Bloomberg, Sahin says he hopes that the method will be in the hands of the larger producers. According to him, one producer would already have agreed to purchase a license. Sahin states that GEMX can lead to cobalt only forming four per cent of a cathode, whereas this is often still around twenty per cent.

The discovery of CAMX was realized in collaboration with BASF and Johnson Matthey, two large chemical companies. The latter is planning to invest 200 million dollars in GEMX production. BASF plans to issue double the production of cathodes based on the invention. Sahin’s company says GEMX’s interest has recently been recognized at the Innovation for Cool Earth Forum in Tokyo, which included various leaders from the automotive industry.

It is obvious that the cost of lithium-ion batteries will go down if less cobalt is needed. The metal is relatively expensive. For a ton of cobalt, nearly 100,000 dollars had to be paid a year ago, although the price has been falling for a while. The current cobalt price is approximately $ 53,000. Sahin states that more than thirty percent of the cost of a lithium-ion cell goes into the material for the cathode. According to him, this component is also hardest to make in large quantities and so the material for cathodes in his eyes is the key to making lithium-ion batteries cheaper.

The silver-colored metal cobalt is extracted in about twelve countries, with Congo alone responsible for roughly sixty percent of total world production. It is mainly won here as a by-product of melting copper. This is partly done in non-industrial mines without supervision, which involves child labor, health risks for miners and the necessary environmental pollution.

Cobalt powder
Raw cobalt powder after a first transformation in a Congolese factory. © ANP / Lucien Kahozi

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