BASF Cathode Material Production Plant, Elyria, Ohio, United States of America
BASF started commercial operations at its new cathode materials manufacturing facility in November 2012. Located in Elyria in the state of Ohio, US, it is the largest cathode materials manufacturing facility in the country. It is integrated into a four-storey building covering 70,000 square feet.
The new plant will produce cathode materials to be supplied to various manufacturers of advanced rechargeable lithium-ion batteries.
These batteries will be used for powering various electronic devices and will be an energy efficient alternative to powering the hybrid and electric cars of the near future.
BASF broke ground for the new production plant in October 2010 following a $24.6m grant from the US Department of Energy (DOE) in August 2009. The total investment for the construction of the plant reached more than $50m. DOE also carried out the environmental assessment (EA) for the construction of the plant.
The plant is expected to generate more than 25 engineering and technical jobs.
Site choice and Vehicle Technologies Program details
The new plant is built on a site formerly owned by Harshaw Chemical, which BASF acquired in 2006. It is located about a mile away from downtown Elyria, 30 miles west of Cleveland. The site was chosen for its proximity to markets and the availability of a workforce.
The project forms part of a $2.4bn grant awarded through the Vehicle Technologies Program which encourages environmentally-friendly and energy efficient technologies. The grant was awarded to 48 electric drive and advanced battery projects by the US Government. The Vehicle Technologies Program is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which is primarily aimed at the creation of jobs.
The facility will enable progress to be made towards the US Government's target of having at least a million electric cars on its roads by 2015. The increasing demand for products implementing lithium-ion batteries was another reason behind BASF's decision to build the plant.
Commercialisation of cathode materials
BASF in 2009 signed a licensing agreement with the DOE and the Argonne National Laboratory to develop and commercialise NCM (nickel cobalt manganese) cathode materials developed by Argonne.
The company signed another licensing agreement with LiFePO4+C in March 2012. The agreement provided BASF with the rights to manufacture and commercialise LiFePO4+C's patented technology for manufacturing LFP (lithium iron phosphate) battery materials for lithium-ion batteries.
NCM and LFP technologies
The process technology for NCM cathode materials involves a mixture of lithium and metal oxides with rich manganese content. The cathode materials processed through this mixture help in enhancing the operating time of the battery and provide more safety during operations.
The patented processing technology also helps in increasing the energy storage capacity of the batteries by 50% compared to other products.
BASF's NCM cathode materials also provide the lithium-ion batteries with far higher temperature stability due to the use of manganese. The cathode materials are also of a higher degree of purity due to the presence of a smaller amount of chromium and iron impurities when compared to similar products.
LFP cathode materials generally have low electrical conductivity. The materials, when coated with a thin layer of carbon, allow lithium to pass through, making them conducive to the manufacturing of lithium-ion batteries.
Carbon coating also generates high performance, purity and safety for the batteries. The powdery features of the materials provide for easy slurry preparations and cathode coating processes. The process technology used for LFP cathode materials comprises of mixing the raw materials, conversion using chemicals and treating them through heating.
Marketing commentary for BASF globally
BASF is one of the world's leading chemical company. It currently employs more than 111,000 people across its production sites worldwide. The company produces chemicals, plastics, catalysts and other products. Its catalysts division is involved in the production of advanced battery materials and other products.
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