Lithium compounds: Processing solutions for your company battery production

Lithium is a soft, silvery-white alkali-metal. It has the highest electrochemical potential of all metals and is therefore an indispensable component in lithium-ion batteries for electromobility and consumer electronics. It is the most important active material in the cathode and determines the performance of the battery. In battery production, lithium is used exclusively as a lithium compound such as lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide (NMC/Li-NMC), lithium nickel cobalt aluminium oxide (NCA), or lithium iron phosphate (LFP).  

The processing of lithium compounds is necessary in battery production in order to make optimal use of the valuable raw materials. On has developed technologies that meet industry requirements and help customers obtain high-performance cathode materials for lithium-ion batteries. 

Advanced lithium for high-performance cathode active material

To produce the best possible active materials for the cathode, a number of factors are important. The lithium must be free of moisture and contamination (especially iron and other metals). A steep particle size distribution is also important, as it determines the performance of the battery. The batteries can be charged faster, enjoy a longer service life and higher capacity. Containment solutions are necessary in lithium processing plants to prevent both contamination of the product and to protect the surroundings and operators, as some active materials are partly carcinogenic. Therefore, the systems must be gas-tight and dust-free. Operator safety is also an important consideration when handling battery materials. Depending on the product and the required OEB (Occupational Exposure Banding) level, the Hosokawa Micron Group offers a range of standard and bespoke containment equipment to complement its drying, mixing, milling and particle design equipment. 

On meets the challenges of handling and processing lithium battery materials with a variety of solutions: classifier mills and fluidised bed opposed jet mills are able to handle large throughputs and achieve a steep particle size distribution. Additionally, they can achieve an exact top cut and therefore a high product quality.  

Increasing the efficiency of lithium

To obtain high-performance lithium battery materials, several process steps must be optimised. Especially important are an exact top cut as well as a steep particle size distribution. A conductive additive is used for high conductivity. The cathode active materials are then homogeneously distributed and embedded in the surface. 

On presents technologies to improve the performance of battery materials in every single process step - from milling to mixing and coating. 

Lithium processing

The cathode is produced from precursor material and lithium sources. Both raw materials are obtained by different processes (drying and/or milling). Then they are mixed, dried and sintered to form battery/cathode active material. The material is then ground and mixed/coated with binders and carbon black to form the final cathode material. Finally, it is applied in layers to aluminium foil to form the cathode of a lithium-ion battery.

Drying raw materials used in batteries

The hygroscopic precursor materials such as nickel, manganese or cobalt oxide are produced via a calcination process. To be further processed into active materials for lithium-ion batteries, they have to be dried to eliminate moisture. The Drymeister DMR flash dryer (for lithium, nickel, cobalt and manganese), the CPD conical paddle dryer or the Nauta dryer (both for lithium) are best suited here to remove moisture from slurries and filter cakes. 

Grinding high-performance lithium battery materials

For further processing of the active materials, a fine powder with homogeneous particle size distribution is required. Therefore, ultra-fine grinding of the active substances is the next process step. Two mills from On are particularly suitable for ultra-fine grinding: the air classifier mill ACM and the AFG fluidised bed opposed jet mill AFG. 

Drying the lithium compounds in battery production

Water is very undesirable in battery materials. Therefore, On has several dryers, both batch and continuous to get rid of any moisture. As with drying the cathode precursor materials, this can be achieved with the Drymeister DMR flash dryer (continuous drying), the Nauta dryer or the CPD conical paddle dryer (both batch drying). 

Mixing and coating in lithium processing

To increase the cycle stability of the cathode material, coating of the NMC particles is necessary. High-shear mixers as Cyclomix and Nobilta (batch mixing) do not only achieve a homogenous mixture, but also form a strong coating of other materials, such as carbon black and binders around the precursor to improve conductivity. The purity of the coating also is an important issue. 

Complete systems for your industrial battery production

Lithium-ion refinery is a complex process in which various process steps must work together in order to produce high-performance batteries. In this, customers benefit from the combined knowledge of On. Companies throughout the Hosokawa Micron Group specialise in different technologies and work hand in hand to provide you with the optimum solution for your battery production. Contact us for more information! 

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