Umicore and 3M Form NMC Cathode Materials Relationship

SEM images of particle morphology of 3M NMC cathode materials. Source: 3M. Click to enlarge.

Umicore and 3M have entered into a technology license agreement that aims at further expanding the use of Nickel-Manganese-Cobalt (NMC) mixed metal layered oxide cathode materials in lithium-ion batteries in for automotive and portable consumer electronics applications.

Under the agreement, 3M grants Umicore a license to patents US6964828, US7078128 and equivalents in Taiwan, China, Japan, and the EU, thereby granting Umicore access to a family of NMC cathode material compositions for manufacture and sales to lithium-ion battery manufacturers.

The cathode compositions composed of Nickel, Manganese, and Cobalt offer a balance of power, energy, thermal stability and low cost. NMC cathode materials can be tailored through changes in composition and morphology to meet a wide range of demanding customer requirements from high energy handheld consumer electronics to high power (hybrid) electric vehicles.

3M currently offers two NMC cathode products: BC-618 (multi-purpose balanced performance) and BC-723 (power and safety focused performance). The two have gravimetric discharge caps (4.3V at C/10) of 162 and 161 mAh/g, respectively. 3M has developed these proprietary cathode powder formulations with precise control of structure and compositions tailored for both energy and power applications. 3M NMC cathodes have up to six times less Cobalt for reduced price volatility when compared to the industry standard Lithium Cobalt Oxide.

For large format battery applications the excellent thermal stability of NMC cathode compositions contributes to an improved battery safety performance and enables therefore a lower total battery system cost.

We are very pleased to have reached this agreement with 3M. It will further expand Umicore’s wide product offering and pave the way for NMC cathode materials in the emerging applications for lithium ion batteries in automotive market as well as further penetrate the established consumer electronics market.

—Kurt Vandeputte, Business Line Manager, Umicore Rechargeable Battery Materials Business Line

NMC cathode materials have shown significant advantages in large format battery applications like electric vehicles. This agreement with Umicore will accelerate the market adaptation of the technology and enhance our ability to meet the rapidly growing needs of lithium-ion battery customers.

—Chris Milker, Business Manager, 3M Electronics Markets Materials Division

In 2009, 3M also entered into a strategic relationship and an agreement with China-based Amperex Technologies Ltd. (ATL) to expand the use of nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMC) cathode materials in lithium-ion batteries targeted at consumer electronics and automotive applications. (Earlier post.)


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