Cathode Materials–An Electrically Fuelled Future!

Published Date : 2019-01-29
Cathode material, a substantial component of lithium-ion batteries have dramatically evolved over the years. Electrochemical cells, popularly known as batteries, have evolved as an essential component in several industrial verticals. Batteries majorly function on the principle that ions surge from one metal termed cathode through a solution of salt to a different metal termed anode. The connection of these metals with metal wires enable the flow of electrons from the anode to the cathode metal.

These materials are constructed of nickel, manganese, and cobalt which exist in a crystallized form. Among the widely used cathode elements are Lithium Magnesium Oxide (LMO), Nickel Manganese Cobalt (NCM), Lithium Ion Phosphate (LIP), Nickel Cobalt Aluminium (NCA), and others. They have varied applications such as in consumer electronics, power tools, and automotive, on account of distinct characteristics such as durability, compatibility, and fast charging.

The cathode material has been bifurcated into different types on the basis of induced primary materials which includes lithium-ion, lead acid, others also by materials such as Lithium Cobalt Oxide (LCO), Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP), Lithium Manganese Oxide (LMO), Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt Oxide (NMC), Lithium Nickel Cobalt Aluminium Oxide (NCA), lead oxide, oxyhydroxide, sodium iron phosphate, and graphite cathode.

Rapid industrialization in the developed as well as developing economies have resulted in technological adaptations by industries as well as the end users who are demanding advancements in the existing technologies for better productivity and efficiency, presenting a pool of opportunities for the cathode materials.

Currently, the global industrial scenario is asking for sustainable energy that is both economical and efficient in energy conversion with an aim to improve the dependence on uninterrupted and portable power sources and upsurging environmental issues. Technologies storing electric energy play a potential role in the demand for sustainable and green energy resources. Secondary batteries or batteries that can be recharged such as Na-ion batteries, Li-ion batteries, and Mg-ion batteries. These batteries enable conversion between the electrical and chemical energy through redox reactions, thereby storing the energy as electrodes with chemical potential. Thus they partially meet the demand for sustainable energy sources. For instance, Sion Power, one of the leading developer of lithium batteries technology and their research partner BASF, launched the next generation rechargeable lithium battery named Licerion.

Cathode materials have been increasingly prominent in several regions across the globe. The technological advancements in the aerospace and electronics industries in America have led to widening the application and growth for these materials. Whereas, countries of the Asia Pacific such as China and India, which have strong manufacturing bases because of the presence of ever-increasing population, as well as government initiatives, that support the entrepreneurs towards manufacturing activities such as Make in India, and others and have called for the cathode materials market to rise dynamically.

Several technologically sound companies are focused on expanding the market for cathode materials with innovations and developments to meet the demands. For instance, Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology (SAIT), in the year 2017, developed a “graphene ball”, a unique material for a battery that enables an increase in capacity by 45 percent, and charging speeds that are five times faster in comparison to the standard lithium-ion-batteries. This development promises the next generation battery market principally electric vehicles and mobile devices more durability and efficiency.

The prominent players globally are Umicore, BASF, Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings, POSCO, Hitachi Chemical, NIE Corporation, Nippon Chemical Industrial Co. Ltd, and others who are now majorly focusing on strategies to gain a competitive edge over the market by launching new products and developing the existing variants, collaborations, acquisitions and mergers, healthy partnerships, and others. For instance, in the year 2017, BASF and TODA KOGYO CORP. enhanced their collaboration by highly investing in cathode materials and strengthening their production capabilities in the U.S. as well as China to enable e-mobility. 

However, with the high capacities and all the technological advancements, prime industrial verticals need to work on establishing a higher capacity and voltage cathode materials, in order to create and sustain a balanced system with capacities equal to the electrode. For next-generation conversion batteries, an immense focus will be on reducing the activation energies and increasing the efficiency.

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