Lithium Australia NL’s (ASX:LIT)(FRA:3MW) subsidiary VSPC has recently completed successful trials for the production of lithium-ion battery (LIB) cathode precursors from various, low-cost, iron sources.
The process produced battery-grade iron oxalate from a variety of iron sources including iron ores and industrial waste products with widely varying impurity levels (between 5% and 20%) and has been highly effective in eliminating the impurities.
This indicates that iron streams of variable quality, including iron-rich waste from several industrial sources, can be used as feed for the process.
Notably, the electrochemical performance of the LFP produced from VSPC’s battery-grade iron oxalate is equivalent to LFP created using commercial grade iron oxalate.
“Improving safety, cost and performance”
The process is also cost-efficient producing high-purity, battery-grade iron oxalate resulting in up to 10% savings in chemical costs by using low-cost iron oxides and complete usage of acid reagents.
Other processes, such as the synthesis of iron oxalate from iron sulphate, incur costs around the disposal of waste acid.
Lithium Australia managing director Adrian Griffin said: "Safety, cost and performance will be the drivers for the lithium-ion batteries of the future and we are already witnessing a significant shift in the direction of LFP to optimize those important characteristics.
“The ability to utilise low-cost feed materials for the production of LFP batteries puts Australia one step closer to becoming a competitive location for battery production.
“The program, which is co-funded by the Australian Manufacturing Growth Centre, augments VSPC’s achievements in the production of high-capacity LFP derivatives which provide the potential for far greater safety while maintaining energy densities comparable with more common lithium-ion battery chemistries.”
This project has now advanced to stage 4, with work on process refinements and scaleup ongoing.
Laboratory experiments to optimise the iron source, acid/reagent consumption and process conditions will continue, the aim being to maximise both recovery and iron oxalate quality while minimising manufacturing costs.
This work will include synthesising iron oxalate from iron-rich waste streams.
The pilot-scale manufacture of iron oxalate from iron ores and iron-rich wastes will also continue, with the iron oxalate used to manufacture LFP for testing in commercial format lithium-ion batteries.
Additionally, Stage 4 will also include pilot-scale manufacture of LFP using lithium phosphate as an alternative to lithium carbonate - the former is expected to provide a lower-cost raw material option in the future.
LITCF shareholders pay up
On December 14 and 15, 2020, Lithium Australia shareholders fully paid the balance unpaid on 9.75 million LITCF partly paid ordinary shares in the capital of the company, at 4.99 cents for each LITCF for total consideration of $486,525.
These LITCFs have now become fully paid ordinary shares in the capital of the company (LIT) with a total of 119,111,041 LITCF remaining on issue.