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Technology Commercialization and Partnerships

Device and Method for Fluidizing and Coating of Ultrafine Particles (ANL-IN-11-048)

Increasing structural stability and cell capacity of battery electrodes
Figure 1. TEM 2.5-nm-thick nano-coated ultrathin film on lithium-ion cathode particle surface; coating is highly uniform, in con

The Invention 

An ultra thin surface coating composed of metal oxides that, when applied to granular electrode materials on a large scale, promises to solve the structural instability of electrode materials and the resulting rapid fade of cell capacity at high voltages and high temperatures in lithium-ion batteries. 

Argonne’s innovation, a powder nanocoating technology using metal oxides, has the following features: 

  • Gas-phase surface chemical reactions; 
  • A layer of extremely uniform metal oxide ultrathin film on granular cathode materials with precisely controlled surface morphology: smooth, conformal, and pin-hole free so that the electrode degradation reactions in the battery can be suppressed; and 
  • Film so ultra thin and precisely controlled in its thickness that the transfer of the charge across the electrode/electrolyte interface takes place with a very limited, or even a reduced, interface resistance. 

In developing a surface coating for the electrodes of lithium-ion batteries, Argonne scientists sought to satisfy two requirements simultaneously: 

  • Create a uniform coating that will fully isolate electrodes from the electrolyte, and 
  • Create an ultra thin film that will allow the lithium ion and electron to easily tunnel without a large increase in impedance. 

Conventional technologies have been unable to fulfill those requirements and have proved incapable of precisely controlling the coating film properties of film thickness and morphology. As a result, battery performance can be unstable.

Figure 2. Comparison of cycling performances of Li-ion batteries made of LiNi1/3Co1/3Mn1/3O2 cathode powders with and without (b

Benefits 

The new powder coating technology provides: 

  • Smooth fluidization of ultrafine powders via non-linear processing control; 
  • Online, real-time monitoring of powder fluidization status and surface chemical reaction; 
  • Well-controlled properties of the nanocoated film (conformity, thickness, and composition); and 
  • A novel process that is scalable, less energy-intensive, and at a lower cost. 

Lithium-ion batteries made of these novel coated materials offer: 

  • Isolation of electrode from electrolyte, creating greater structural stability and effectively enhancing capacity retention; 
  • Greater stability; 
  • Longer lifespan; 
  • Higher energy/power densities; 
  • Greater safety; and 
  • Reduced cost and increased performance (figure 2) reliability. 

Applications and Industries 

  • Hybrid electric vehicles 
  • Solar cells 
  • Ultracapacitors 
  • Cosmetics 

Developmental Stage 

Proof of concept. Lab scale has been demonstrated; small pilot scale up is on schedule.