Argonne’s NMC Cathode
An Argonne-developed cathode material is enabling widespread rollout of lithium-ion batteries throughout the marketplace.
Roughly 15 years ago, Argonne researchers developed the nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMC) blended cathode—a major leap in lithium-ion battery technology—from earlier cathode chemistries. NMC offers the longest-lasting energy available in the smallest, lightest package: a 50-100% increase in energy storage capacity over conventional cathode material. Further, its unique lithium- and manganese-rich mixed-metal oxide combination extends the operating time between charges, increases the calendar life, and improves the inherent safety of lithium-ion cells.
Argonne’s NMC blended cathode has led to multiple commercialization agreements and the building of manufacturing plants in both Michigan and Ohio. NMC has become a prominent cathode material in the transportation market, with applications ranging from power tools to hybrid electric vehicles. Additionally, NMC promises to be a key technology for enabling large-scale energy grid storage.
The commercialization track record of this technology is truly impressive:
- In 2008, TODA America, Inc., licensed the NMC technology. In 2010, construction began on TODA’s Li-ion Cathode Materials plant in Battle Creek, Michigan. The plant manufacturers multiple cathode materials, but chiefly NMC. Customers of the TODA plant include LG Chem’s battery production facility in Holland, Michigan.
- In 2009, BASF Corporation licensed the NMC technology and invested in further research and development and facilities to produce NMC-based products. Most notable is the BASF plant, which opened in Elyria, Ohio in 2012. Argonne and BASF received a “Deals of Distinction™” Award in 2010 from the Licensing Executives Society, Inc., which noted the agreement’s significant potential to improve the environment and provide economic growth.
- In 2011, the Korean chemical company LG Chem licensed the NMC technology from Argonne.
Also in 2011, General Motors licensed NMC for use in the Chevrolet Volt, the first mass-produced plug-in hybrid electric vehicle. NMC is also found in the battery of the Chevy Bolt, the successor to the Volt. The Bolt is developed and manufactured in partnership with LG Chem. The Bolt was named the 2017 Motor Trend Car of the Year, the 2017 North American Car of the Year, and an Automobile Magazine 2017 All Star — and was listed among Time magazine’s Best 25 Inventions of 2016. LG Chem Michigan, Inc., a subsidiary of LG Chem, manufactures lithium-ion battery cells for the Chevy Volt and Bolt at its production facility in Holland, Michigan.