NEI Corporation and the University of California, San Diego won a Phase II Small Business Technology Transfer contract from NASA to develop and implement high energy density cathode materials for lithium batteries
The outcome of the program will be a commercially useable cathode material with exceptionally high capacity – more than 250 milliAmp-Hours per gram (250 mAh/g) at about 4V, which translates to an energy density of more than 1000 Watt-hours per kilogram (Wh/kg). This represents a factor of two enhancement in energy density over lithium cobalt oxide, which is the most commonly used cathode material at the present time. NEI expects to have sample cathode materials for testing by interested end-users by the middle of 2011.
The lithium ion batteries Meng’s group is working on are primarily manganese based, while most of the lithium batteries in the marketplace today are cobalt based.
“Manganese is much cheaper than cobalt, and manganese is more abundant,” said Meng. “Also, we are focusing on a different material structure for the batteries, one that is easier to make and could lead to cheaper synthesis.”
The nanoengineers in the Meng lab will be using first principles to model new nanocomposite structures for the generation of cathode materials with exceptionally high energy density.