Advanced High-Capacity Materials for Rechargeable Lithium Batteries

Company to explore use of tin-based anodes for new class or rechargeable lithium batteries.

Published: 05-Dec-2000

T/J Technologies, Inc., under ATP 2000 Competition funding of about $2 million granted in their win October, plans to develop over the next three years a novel tin-based anode material to enable a new class of rechargeable lithium batteries with significantly improved performance and reduced cost.

Batteries are a critical technology for the 21st century. The size, weight and performance of portable electronics such as personal digital assistants (PDA), laptop computers and cellular phones are limited by present battery technologies. The development of electrode materials with increased energy storage capacities will significantly extend battery run time.

T/J Technologies will develop and demonstrate a novel tin/metal carbide anode material that will enhance the performance and reduce the cost of rechargeable lithium batteries. This nanostructured material stabilizes nanometer-sized tin particles in a porous, conductive carbide matrix and is expected to yield twice the volumetric charge capacity of carbon anodes used in today's lithium batteries. Preliminary investigations suggest that T/J Technologies' new nanocomposite material offers the requisite performance, but several obstacles to practical use must be overcome.

The ATP project will seek to extend cycle life to 300 cycles (about 18 months of actual use), the requirement for consumer acceptance. The optimized nanodispersion of tin will be achieved through the development of new precursor chemistries and materials synthesis processes. The tin content will be manipulated to balance capacity and cycle life; the carbide will help disperse the tin and minimize deactivation of tin that otherwise occurs during charge/discharge cycling.

The process for making the material will be scaled up from several grams per day to nearly a kilogram per day. The new materials will be incorporated into two types of demonstration batteries: the common lithium rechargeable (lithium-ion and/or lithium polymer) and an innovative dual intercalation battery, which could offer superior performance for use in products such as electric vehicles.

Lion Compact Energy Inc. (Midland, Mich.) will be subcontracted to build and test dual intercalation batteries.

ATP support was sought because the research is too early stage to attract the requisite private funding. If successfully developed and commercialized, the new technology will reduce battery materials costs by 40% and enhance performance (e.g. faster recharge rate, higher capacity), thereby enabling U.S. companies to capture some of the $5 billion rechargeable battery market that is now dominated by Japanese firms.

Cellular phone sales alone are projected to double to 3 billion phones by 2005, requiring an equivalent number of batteries.

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