Future smartphones could use nickel-cobalt-manganese batteries

Cobalt supplies are tight, and the raw material is harder and harder to procure. The Democratic Republic of Congo is the world’s primary cobalt resource, and the element is harder to come by due to political risks, notes a Korea Herald report. Mining activities also raise humanitarian questions, as often child labor is being employed.

Same report cites industry sources to reveal that 30,000 tons of cobalt were used only last year for manufacturing laptop and other device batteries. As a matter of fact, cobalt is a key component for the lithium-ion batteries that most likely power your smartphones, notebook, or tablet. That amount of cobalt is apparently higher than the one used for electric vehicles.

LG Chem announced today that it is going to move away from cobalt batteries. The company currently sells only 10 percent low cobalt batteries, but has quadrupled the number for next year, when it aims for 40 percent. By 2020 LG Chem wants to sell 60 percent low cobalt batteries, as the chaebol is moving towards nickel-cobalt-manganese batteries.

Opposed to current lithium-cobalt-oxide batteries, which contain 100 percent cobalt, these new NCM batteries reduce the amount of cobalt to 20-30 percent, the report notes.

The Korean firm’s newest technology enables reducing the proportion of cobalt use in the NCM cathode of a lithium-ion battery by more than 70 percent, while keeping the energy density at a similar level as the LCO cathode, according to the company“, notes the report.

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Anton D. Nagy
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