Breakthrough in lithium-ion battery production utilizing high-purity alumina

Figure: Altech Chemicals

Australian Altech Chemicals announces that it is in the final development stage of a high purity alumina (HPA) grade that is specifically designed for anode applications within lithium-ion batteries. This initiative is in response to lithium-ion battery anode development trends that Altech has identified in Europe from its engagement with potential HPA users, and from its work with research organisations such as the international renowned Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft Institute. The initiative also offers another potential avenue to secure a portion of future HPA production at a predetermined floor price, which would support project financial close.

HPA is commonly applied as a coating on the separator sheets used within a lithium-ion battery, as alumina coated separators improve battery performance, durability and overall safety. However, there is an evolving use for alumina within the anode component of the lithium-ion battery because of the positive impacts that alumina coated graphite particles have on battery life and performance.

Lithium-ion battery anodes are typically composed of graphite. In a lithium-ion battery, lithium ion losses initially present as inactive layers of lithium ions that form during the very first battery charge cycle, the losses then compound with each subsequent battery usage cycle. Typically, around 8% of lithium ions are lost during the very first battery charge cycle. This “first cycle capacity loss” or “first-cycle irreversibility” is a long recognised but as yet poorly resolved limitation that has plagued rechargeable lithium-ion batteries.

First cycle capacity loss in a lithium-ion battery is because of the deposition of lithium ions onto the anode graphite particles within the battery during the initial battery charging cycle. This forms a layer of material on the anode termed a “solid electrolyte interphase” (SEI). Currently the graphite particles used in lithium-ion battery anodes are uncoated, however manufactures are now seeking to coat anode graphite particles with very thin layers of alumina. Tests have demonstrated that alumina coated graphite particles have the potential to reduce first cycle capacity loss. In turn, this innovation can measurably increase battery energy retention, extend battery life and improve overall battery performance.

The Altech break-through

As a result of ground-breaking research and development work led by the Company’s General Manager Operations and Marketing, Dr. Jingyuan Liu, Altech is now proceeding to an independent verification phase of its method for the alumina coating of graphite particles. University and laboratory verification of the process (patent pending) is due for completion during the next quarter, and Altech expects that positive verification will result in potential end-user trials, and eventually commercialisation of the process.

Whist the proposed new product formulation is confidential, it includes Altech’s planned fine modified alumina plus some supporting compounds. The new product range will be called “Anode Grade APC01” and “Anode Grade ALC01”. The product and treatment method is expected to improve Coulombic Efficiency (CE) (especially the CE in first cycle), cycling stability, high-rate performance and fast charging capability. Altech intends to focus on tailoring its high purity alumina into specialised products for significant more efficient application within various process technologies within the lithium-ion battery industry.

Altech’s proposed Anode grade product range would be produced by Altech’s already designed HPA plant in Johor, Malaysia.