6K Inc., North Andover, MA, a U.S developer of microwave plasma technology for the production of advanced materials, yesterday launched a new division dedicated to energy storage materials called 6K ENERGY.
The move follows three years of intense internal development supported by commercial customers and the US Department of Energy (DOE). The company’s UniMelt plasma production system has been used to uniquely demonstrate high performance NMC cathode materials in a volume process that can deliver dramatically lower costs in a highly sustainable production paradigm.
“Customers in the electric vehicle and consumer electronics markets are eager for new technologies to advance battery performance, reduce costs, and look to new chemistries to pave the way forward to greater electrification,” said Dr. Aaron Bent, CEO of 6K in a press release. “We have built an extremely talented team of energy material experts that have now demonstrated a unique ability to synthesize NMC, LTO, LLZO, silicon anode, and other advanced materials in a chemistry-agnostic approach. Now that we can match the performance of a best-in-class commercial NMC-622 in a volume production plasma, it became clear that we have something very unique and should accelerate efforts.”
6K recently completed testing of its NMC-622 produced on the UniMelt plasma production system at a nationally-recognized independent validation laboratory. The testing was consistent with 6K’s internal testing results showing reversible capacity of nearly 180 mAh/g and first cycle efficiency of 92%. These results further confirm for 6K that the UniMelt process can deliver the performance gains customers are demanding and that the creation of a dedicated division for energy storage materials is highly strategic and correct for the organization.
6K’s UniMelt microwave plasma system creates a highly uniform, precisely-controlled and tunable high throughput production zone that can process a variety of low cost liquid, slurry or powder input materials. In the case of high nickel cathodes like NMC, the platform replaces a traditional multi-day multi-step process with a continuous process offering a residence time of as little as two seconds, starting with a fully pre-lithiated precursor. UniMelt technology is chemistry agnostic and is not bound by the limitations of co-precipitation, solid state synthesis methods, sol gel, or other traditional techniques, essentially allowing any chemistry to be produced on a single platform. 6K has demonstrated NMC 111, 532, 622, 811, and higher nickel chemistries.
“The combination of chemistry and morphology flexibility enables customers to create designer materials tailored for the specific energy, power and life requirements of their applications, at a pace not previously possible,” explained Dr. Richard Holman, VP of Battery Products at 6K in the same statement. “Our UniMelt technology offers total control over the chemistry and morphology of advanced battery materials at lower cost, while also delivering a production solution in a much more sustainable way.”
The UniMelt process completely eliminates waste water and hazardous by-products by removing co-precipitation and the associated washing steps, and reduces energy usage and CO2 emissions threefold by eliminating the long thermal processing required in conventional NMC production. The efficiency and elimination of costly steps required with other approaches will allow 6K customers to achieve a significant reduction in cost for NMC production.
6K continues its development of high nickel cathodes using the UniMelt process under its DOE Phase 2 SBIR program, and will soon be doing limited sampling to select customers. 6K is also expanding its activities in advanced energy storage materials with several cathode development projects with external partners, and is developing a novel architecture of advanced high energy silicon anodes to enable high cycle life at high Si contents and low production cost.