From the Innovation Manager: some figures on Cobalt

Updated: Dec 1, 2020


By Rahul Gopalakrishnan, ABEE - Innovation Manager for CoFBAT project


CoFBAT is a European project which revolves around one main motto, which is to reduce/replace cobalt material used in lithium-ion batteries. Cobalt is one such material which is least abundant in nature and an expensive one, therefore. Figure 1 shows the historical variation of cobalt vs other metal prices over the years with clear indication of how cobalt dominates the other metals used in Lithium-ion batteries (LIBs). Moreover, we can see how the Nickel prices are varying similarly in the last decade or so due to increase in the activity related to producing Nickel rich NMC. The trade flow map clearly indicates the supply risk (concentration localised in Africa, more specifically DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo).


Figure 1: A: Historical variation of Cobalt prices; B: Historical variations of other metals used in Lithium-ion Batteries (LIBs) ; C: Trade flow of raw and processed cobalt [1]



Figure 2 similarly represents the historical demand of cobalt with respect to mine output and what will be required in 2030. This provides clear indication for the scientific community for the need to move towards cobalt free cathode technologies. LMNO is by far the best option in terms of safety and stability (plus removing completely Co in the composition) even though it has lower capacity comparatively. This could be compensated through its high voltage operation and possibilities for reducing pack level costs that could be interesting for stationary applications as is the case for CoFBAT project.


Figure 2: Cobalt content requirements vs demand for Lithium ion battery (LIB) [2]


The next innovation CoFBAT project prides itself is the inclusion of gel polymer electrolyte which replaces conventional liquid electrolyte which brings us one step closer to solid state electrolyte technology. The idea of jellifying the electrolyte further increases the safety of the cell by removing the harmful solvents used in the processing of electrodes and an exploratory task to develop a dry process is being investigated in the project. Silicon/Carbon composite and TiNb2O7 (TNO) are chosen as anodes for the project where (Si/C/LMNO and TNO/LMNO) will be investigated - and the optimisation will be conducted - at small scale. By the end of second year based on the latest deliverable D2.2 “Requirements definition of materials, components and cells” the anode selection will be done and then the consortium will proceed for upscaling to pouch cell level with higher capacity. Similarly, a clear strategy for recycling has been created to adapt to either of the chosen anode material. As of this month, from the earlier results from the round-robin testing and the third General Assembly, the consortium partners are right on track with all the deliverables and milestones, set to move into the second year of the project. Hopefully by beginning of 2022 we would have some indications on which would be our favourable anode for which I wish all the partners good luck for the coming crucial months and hope for a fruitful outcome to make this project a huge success.


References


[1] S. W. D. Gourley, T. Or and Z. Chen, "Breaking Free from Cobalt Reliance in Lithium-Ion Batteries," iScience, vol. 23, no. 9, p. 101505, 2020.

[2] D. A. Holland, "IDTechEx," 30 OCtober 2020. [Online]. Available: https://www.idtechex.com/en/research-article/options-for-zero-cobalt-and-high-performance-li-ion-batteries/21971. [Accessed 22 November 2020].





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This Project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under Grant Agreement N. 875126

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