Layered oxide cathodes for vehicle batteries

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Our group became interested in nickel-based layered oxides as cathode materials for lithium-based batteries back in 2013, at the time we started to explore all the fundamentals of this class of materials such as metal co-precipitation synthesis and structure-composition-performance relationships. Over the years, we developed an in-depth perspective through state-of-the-art characterization, such as time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (TOF-SIMS). We investigated the degradation of high-nickel layered cathodes during battery operation, and the key roles of electrode-electrolyte interactions at high voltages.

      Such knowledge served as a cornerstone for this Perspective. In addition, we also focused on the supply chain and industrial production of this class of materials and their applications in electric vehicles, common topics in News articles and market reports, but less frequently addressed in the academic literature. To bridge the gap between academia and industry, we discussed with some experts on cathode material and battery production in the commercial sector. Their diverse perspectives greatly strengthened and enriched this Perspective, and we are grateful to them. We also paid attention to China’s presence in this field, by far the largest electric vehicle market with strong policy and investment support. Through these efforts, we strived to provide a larger picture on how high-nickel layered cathodes enable a rapid expansion of electric mobility across the globe in the coming decades.

     Although substantial improvements are unlikely for future low- and zero-cobalt layered oxide cathodes, there appears to be opportunities for diverse development roadmaps alternative to the Li[Ni1-x-yCoxMny]O2 (NCM) and Li[Ni1-x-yCoxAly]O2 (NCA) chemistries. It remains to be seen whether and when non-standard compositional, morphological, and microstructural designs will make meaningful contributions to the global electric vehicle market. Spun out of the University of Texas at Austin in 2019, TexPower joins hundreds of thousands of battery specialists worldwide to take on this challenge. Another key issue not included in this Perspective is the interface compatibility between this class of cathodes and emerging electrolytes (e.g., solid-state electrolytes), which are another focus of attention for next-generation lithium-based batteries. 

      For more details, please check out our paper “High-nickel layered oxide cathodes for lithium-based automotive batteries” in Nature Energy.

Wangda Li

Research Associate, the University of Texas at Austin