Demonstration of Novel Process to Produce Nickel-rich NMC Cathodes for Electric Drive Vehicle Batteries

Period of Performance: 06/12/2017 - 06/11/2018


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Ge Solartech LLC
1195 Rochester Road Suite N
Troy, MI 48083
Firm POC, Principal Investigator


Ge Solartech, LLC proposes to develop and demonstrate a novel synthesis process that can efficiently produce nickel-rich NMC materials. This proprietary process uses pure metals as precursors, avoiding time and energy consuming steps in the conventional hydroxide co-precipitation process because the cost of pure metals is much lower than that of their corresponding compounds and can directly be used as the starting materials without any further treatment requirement. This process can reduce process cost by 70% compared with that of the current hydroxide co-precipitation process. The success of this synthesis process will represent a major breakthrough in achieving the Department of Energy’s objectives for novel low-cost materials and improvements in manufacturing processes. In Ni-rich materials, a replacement of a small amount of Li by Ni gives larger reversible capacity because NiO2 slabs bonded together by the Ni allow much more Li ion de-intercalation. However, Ni atoms in the Li layer can block the passage of Li+ transport, leading to poor performance in rate capacity. Therefore, Ni2+ cations in lithium layers should be controlled within a certain range in order to obtain higher performance. In order to tailor the degree of cation mixing, there is a need for a new synthetic protocol. Ge Solartech’s proposed solid-state synthesis method enables the control of the amount of cation mixing by programming reaction conditions. The conditions, such as precursors, duration of ball milling, reaction temperatures and oxygen environments, are crucial in determining crystal structure and cation mixing that influence the electrochemical performance of the NMC electrodes. Working with the Chemical and Materials Engineering Department at the University of Kentucky, Ge Solartech will, during Phase I, develop and test new nickel-rich NMC cathodes and will characterize and optimize material formulations, as well as improve synthesis methods. Based on Dr. Huang’s previous experience as a Senior Scientist in the Battery Materials Division of BASF, Ge Solartech expects that materials capable of 250-270 mAh/g could be developed in Phase I. Ge Solartech plans to use high capacity Si and graphite composites as anodes to build full cells. By using thick, high performance nickel-rich cathodes and Si-graphite composite anodes, Ge Solartech expects full cells to reach a capacity close to 200 mAh/g. At the completion of Phase I, Ge Solartech will submit a proposal to the DOE for a Phase II project that will scale up production of nickel-rich NMC materials to a prototype level. In Phase II, a full cell capable of 2 Ah will be built to validate the findings of Phase I.