Lithium Australia’s (ASX: LIT) lithium iron phosphate cathode technology eliminates the need for cobalt and nickel and the commodities’ associated supply risks, Lithium Australia managing director Adrian Griffin told delegates at Informa’s Mineral and Investment Week conference.
Mr Griffin added the company’s SiLeach and VSPC technologies which created this cathode material from were “second to none”.
Commenting on current lithium mining practices, Mr Griffin pointed out that more lithium gets discharged to waste streams than caught up in the supply chain.
As a result, Lithium Australia has developed SiLeach and VSPC technologies for processing waste material such as lithium mica into a tri-lithium phosphate that can then be converted into a lithium iron phosphate and used in lithium-ion battery cathodes.
He said a lithium-ion battery with lithium iron phosphate cathode chemistry was safer than some other formulas including the nickel manganese and cobalt technology used in Tesla’s electric vehicle batteries.
Other advantages Lithium Australia’s lithium iron phosphate chemistry poses are deep discharge, high recharge rates and power delivery, 30-year design life, low cost, operation without battery management systems, wide operational temperature range, and no thermal runaway.
Mr Griffin added the battery was suitable for transport and energy storage applications.
In addition to eliminating the need for nickel and cobalt, Lithium Australia’s proprietary technology for producing the lithium-iron phosphate completely bypasses the requirement for producing lithium hydroxide and lithium carbonate, which are the current lithium materials used in lithium-ion batteries and the most cost-intensive and challenging steps in developing the batteries.
Late last year, Lithium Australia revealed to the world it had developed its first lithium-ion batteries using its SiLeach and VSPC processes on waste material.
The lithium iron phosphate cathode material was evaluated in coin cell lithium-ion batteries which were tested under a range of conditions and achieved equivalent performance to VSPC’s advanced cathode powders, which used lithium carbonate as the feedstock.
“The most notable aspect of this achievement is its simplicity, and ability to streamline the processes and cost required to produce lithium-ion battery cathode materials,” Mr Griffin said.
As a staunch advocate for research and development and downstream processing in Australia, Lithium Australia has also set up the Australian Battery Consortium to help provide domestic control of the lithium supply chain and renewable energy security.
Mr Griffin said Lithium Australia was focused on providing energy security both in Australia and Europe using its lithium iron phosphate chemistry and technologies on domestic supply.
He pointed out this eliminates the risk involved with cobalt and nickel, with the majority of cobalt arising out of the Democratic Republic of Congo where allegations of child labour and other human rights violations proliferate.
Although nickel isn’t subject to such scrutiny, the current pipeline of projects is insufficient to meet forecast demand.
Lithium Australia’s strategy is to mitigate this risk by altering the current battery chemistry to include its lithium iron phosphate material, which can be readily manufactured from domestic waste material and spent batteries.
Before the end of this year, Lithium Australia plans to complete a definitive feasibility study into building a commercial cathode powder plant.