Commercial Interests for Nanoparticles in Li-Ion Batteries for Electrical Vehicles Heats Up

China-based company claims to have nanoscale li-iron-phosphate material that reduces li-ion battery production over other nanoscale alternatives

2 min read
Commercial Interests for Nanoparticles in Li-Ion Batteries for Electrical Vehicles Heats Up

In the commercial world of batteries for electrical vehicles (EVs), lithium-iron-phosphate batteries are the popular approach among lithium-battery technologies because of their safety and durability.

This has already led to some disputes, developing in the last couple of years, over charge/discharge rates and intellectual property rights within the field.

As if the commercial situation were not tense enough, it now appears there is a new player in the lithium-iron-phosphate battery universe. The new start up is called Wuhe, and it is located outside of Beijing.

Wuhe was founded by Yu-Guo Guo, a professor at the Institute of Chemistry at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), and is based on work he has published in journals such as Energy and Environmental Science

According to published reports, Wuhe’s technology reduces the production costs of working with nanoscale lithium-iron-phosphate materials to the point where it could cut battery-cell manufacturing costs by 10 percent.

The reduction in production costs seems to come from the material's being easier to work with than the fine nanoscale powders of lithium-iron phosphate produced by companies such as A123 Systems. Instead Wuhe seems to use lithium-iron-phosphate nanoparticles embedded in larger particles of porous carbon, based on some of the other research published by Guo.

Guo claims that the production method costs only 10 to 20 percent more than bulk lithium-iron phosphate but produces twice as much power as the bulk material while making available twice as much energy in the lithium-iron phosphate, which results in an approximately doubled energy storage capacity. 

It does seem odd that in the reporting of this, there is no mention of how Wuhe’s nanoparticles are easier to work with than the milled nanopowder, resulting in a 10 percent reduction in production costs. But I guess that will be something of which they will have to convince their buyers. 

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Emily Cooper

Perhaps the most far-reaching technological achievement over the last 50 years has been the steady march toward ever smaller transistors, fitting them more tightly together, and reducing their power consumption. And yet, ever since the two of us started our careers at Intel more than 20 years ago, we’ve been hearing the alarms that the descent into the infinitesimal was about to end. Yet year after year, brilliant new innovations continue to propel the semiconductor industry further.

Along this journey, we engineers had to change the transistor’s architecture as we continued to scale down area and power consumption while boosting performance. The “planar” transistor designs that took us through the last half of the 20th century gave way to 3D fin-shaped devices by the first half of the 2010s. Now, these too have an end date in sight, with a new gate-all-around (GAA) structure rolling into production soon. But we have to look even further ahead because our ability to scale down even this new transistor architecture, which we call RibbonFET, has its limits.

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