Argonne battery technology confirmed by U.S. Patent Office

January 29, 2014

ARGONNE, Ill. ― The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory is pleased to announce that after a careful reexamination of the relevant prior patents and publications, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has confirmed the novelty of U.S. Patent 6,677,082.

This patent claims the Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt Oxide (NMC) cathode technology developed by Argonne that improves battery range and reliability, while simultaneously improving safety and reducing manufacturing cost. NMC cathode technology as described in this patent can be found in commercial consumer and vehicle lithium-ion batteries.

“This patent is the foundation of Argonne’s suite of cathode technologies licensed to several prominent companies in the automotive and chemical industries, including GM, BASF, LG Chem and Toda Kogyo,” said Carl Shurboff, manager of industry partnerships for Argonne’s Technology Development & Commercialization (TDC) office. “The NMC cathode technology enables our licensees to make investments in U.S. manufacturing plants, particularly for lithium-ion batteries used in Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs).”

Argonne’s NMC cathode material is designed to the molecular level, enabling batteries to store more energy. It is environmentally safer than the cobalt oxide materials found in most lithium-ion batteries and is more economical to manufacture.

Michael Thackeray, a pioneer in lithium battery technology research and one of the co-inventors of the advanced cathode technology, was pleased with the Patent Office’s finding. “The USPTO recognized and upheld the novelty of Argonne’s cathode materials and their structural design,” Thackeray said.

“This is a very important result for Argonne,” said Greg Morin, interim director of Argonne TDC. “Vehicle electrification, through the use of advanced batteries, is an emerging market that is growing in importance. We believe that this technology, as well as Argonne’s other battery-related discoveries and advances, could play a significant role in developing and growing PHEV and EV markets and allow our licensees to make significant investments in new manufacturing plants for battery materials, battery products and PHEVs and EVs."

DOE's investment in Argonne's advanced battery research supports Obama administration goals to reduce American reliance on oil, decrease greenhouse gas emissions and create jobs, in this case through the development of a growing industry. 

Argonne employs several of the field's top scientists and is home to some of the worlds most sophisticated and unique scientific research facilities, including the Advanced Photon Source, the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility and the Materials Engineering Research Facility. These facilities allow scientists to gain not only an in-depth understanding of a battery material's structure, but also to develop, bench test and scale-up innovative new materials for industrial investigation and potential commercialization.

Argonne is DOE’s primary national laboratory for battery research. The Laboratory has a portfolio of more than 150 battery patents and inventions that are available for licensing. Argonne also operates DOE’s energy storage hub, the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR), which is developing next generation batteries and other energy storage technologies that go beyond lithium-ion systems.

Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researches work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.