Researchers at Dalhousie University in Canada have developed a way of making battery materials that dramatically reduces waste.
Current methods of producing nanoscale particles can be wasteful and limited in their composition. A typical production facility making 6,500 kg of lithium manganese nickel cobalt oxides per day can consume 99,000 litres of water and produce fine particles that become waste material. Natural battery graphite production is also highly wasteful, with 40 to 70 per cent of the mined graphite being typically lost as waste.
The method developed at Dalhousie consolidates nanoscale particles into particles that are tens of microns in diameter to be used in existing battery manufacturing lines. This process, called dry particle microgranulation (or DPMG), allows for the type of precise control of particle internal composition variation, shape, and morphology that is not possible by previous methods.
Dr. Mark Obrovac, a Professor in Dalhousie University’s Department of Chemistry and the NSERC/Novonix Industrial Research Chair in Metal Ion Batteries and his team showed that Li-ion battery graphite and metal oxide particles can be made at 100 per cent yield with no water or waste. The process is being patented under a deal with Novonix, a spin off company from the university set up in 2013.
"I believe that dry particle microgranulation represents breakthrough in reducing the cost, waste, and environmental impact of advanced powder production,” said Obrovac. “In addition, it enables the bulk synthesis of never before seen designer materials, which could lead to enhanced performance. In the Li-ion battery field, I believe this technology shows great promise for reducing battery costs and increasing battery performance; while simultaneously reducing the waste and environmental impact of battery production. I believe that benefits from this technology could also be realized in pharmaceuticals and structural materials; and other fields that utilize engineered particles."