Lithium Australia (ASX:LIT) subsidiary VSPC has successfully produced lithium manganese ferro phosphate (LMFP) cathode powder of advanced and consistent quality, for use in lithium-ion batteries.
The developers say that VSPC’s LMFP has an energy density significantly greater than that of standard lithium ferro phosphate (LFP) powders.
Lithium Australia’s proprietary technologies facilitate the direct synthesis of LMFP from ‘waste’ spodumene, without the necessity of manufacturing lithium hydroxide or lithium carbonate.
The LFMP will now be made available to battery manufacturers for testing in June 2021.
Lithium Australia Managing Director, Adrian Griffin, said VSPC has extensively researched, and ultimately developed LMFP, a high-capacity LIB cathode powder that contains no nickel or cobalt.
He said that although LMFP has an energy density similar to that of the more common, nickel-based LIBs, it is estimated to be cheaper, safer and longer lasting than those nickel variants.
A number of regular VSPC clients will now test the LMFP, using it to manufacture commercial-format LIBs. More LMFP – in limited quantities – will be made available to battery manufacturers focusing on the electric vehicle (EV) market, on the basis that they use the LMFP to produce safe, cost-effective alternatives to nickel-based EV battery packs
Why LFP and LMFP?
Both LFP and LMFP have an ‘olivine’ crystal structure characterised by very strong chemical bonds. This makes them more stable than their ‘spinel’-type nickel/cobalt LIB counterparts.
The olivine structure in both LMFP and LMP ensures the following battery characteristics.
- Superior safety.
- Extended life.
- Lower production costs.
- A wider range of operating conditions.
Enhanced sustainability across the board
The sustainability of the planet’s lithium resources in today’s burgeoning market for LIBs is of concern to the battery industry. LMFP and LFP both contain about 20% less lithium per unit of stored electrical energy than nickel/cobalt LIBs, and this in itself makes a compelling case for the production of LMFP.
Moreover, the company has developed proprietary technology for the recovery of materials considered ‘waste’ by the mining industry, one being its patented LieNA process.
LieNA is capable of refining fine and low-grade spodumene (the principal lithium ore) that is generally considered ‘waste’ and discharged to tailings during the lithium concentration process. This technology, then, has the potential to extend mining reserves at little additional operating cost. Also, the process involves is no roasting phase, further reducing the carbon footprint of battery production.
Mr Griffin said that conveniently too, the preferred output of the LieNA process is lithium phosphate, which can be used directly in the synthesis of LMFP.
In March of this year, for the first time China’s output of LFP-type LIBs eclipsed that of nickel/cobalt LIBs,” Mr Griffin commented.
“In fact, worldwide there’s a growing trend away from the use of nickel and cobalt in such batteries, a step in the right direction in terms of safety and the sustainability of the industry as a whole. LMFP is poised to become the next generation of LIB, which can make EVs cheaper and safer but still with great range. The company’s LMFP is leading the way in this regard.”