Johnson Matthey picks Clitheroe for next-gen battery plant

Article by Adam Duckett

JOHNSON MATTHEY is building a demonstration- plant for production of next-generation lithium ion battery materials in Clitheroe, UK.

The demonstration plant will be built over the next 12 to 18 months and will have the capacity to produce 1,000 t/y of enhanced lithium nickel oxide – or eLNO as it is branded by Johnson Matthey. It has chosen to build the new plant at its site in Clitheroe as its operations there have extensive experience in the scale-up and manufacture of nickel-containing products.

Alan Nelson, CTO of Johnson Matthey, told The Chemical Engineer that eLNO has been designed to enable large-scale adoption of pure battery electric vehicles with extended range and lifetime.

“eLNO is an ultra-high energy density lithium ion battery cathode material that uses less cobalt than NMC 811,” he said. NMC811, as the name suggests, contains around 80% nickel, 10% manganese and 10% cobalt.  

“The key differentiator for eLNO is that it has higher energy density and cycle life at lower cost and with lower cobalt content than NMC811. Lower cobalt is key to ensuring the sustainable commercialisation of high energy density cathode materials for lithium ion batteries.”

There is a push to reduce the amount of cobalt used in batteries due to concerns over supplies. This is because proven reserves of cobalt are limited and chiefly located in politically unstable countries. With market forces as they are, lowering the use of cobalt should help towards electric vehicles competing on price with combustion engine vehicles, and help widen their adoption.

Johnson Matthey says the demonstration plant is an important step in the commercialisation of eLNO and will help support the qualification of the material with customers.

Work is also underway on the design of Johnson Matthey’s first full-scale commercial manufacturing plant for eLNO which will be located in mainland Europe and is due to start production in 2021 or 2022.  

Article by Adam Duckett

Editor, The Chemical Engineer

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