Lithium Australia NL (ASX:LIT, OTC:LMMFF, FRA:3MW) wholly-owned subsidiary, VSPC Ltd, has been granted an Australian patent for nickel and cobalt-free cathode powders, providing the company with 20 years of intellectual property (IP) protection in Australia and marking the first step in VSPC's quest for worldwide patent protection of this IP.
Over the past two years, VSPC has simplified and adapted certain elements of its proprietary nanotechnology, to enable its use of a broader range of raw materials.
This led VSPC to develop a process that includes novel and inventive steps, and hence to granting of this patent.
Lithium ferro phosphate (LFP) and lithium manganese iron phosphate (LMFP) are both phosphate-based cathode active materials that can be manufactured using VSPC's recently patented process, which provides potential for significant reductions in production cost.
Fast-growing sector of the battery industry
Speaking to the patent grant, managing director Adrian Griffin said: "The grant of a patent for this most recent process enhances VSPC's application of previously granted intellectual property to specific types of cathode powders.
"Initial patents, which covered VSPC's ability to create very small particles, have since been applied to the fastest growing sector of the battery industry – LFP-type LIBs.
"Lithium Australia is a world leader in this technology and is seeking partners to establish commercial production facilities.”
Using lithium phosphate as a game-changing technology
By harnessing lithium phosphate as a cathode powder precursor, VSPC’s newly patented process has the potential to reduce the number of steps from the mining of ore to the production of battery cathode materials and, ultimately, new LIBs.
This process, relative to the production of LIB cathode materials in general, offers various competitive advantages, such as flexibility with the lithium raw material used – be it lithium phosphate, lithium carbonate or lithium hydroxide
It also provides upfront control of the chemistry to reliably deliver products consistent in their chemical and physical properties, has a lower energy consumption overall and results in higher yields from raw materials.
More importantly, the process has been shown to reduce input chemical costs by 15% when benchmarked with traditional production costs.
Given that chemicals typically account for more than two-thirds of the production costs of cathode materials, Lithium Australia believes this is significant.
Given the benefits of its proprietary technology, VSPC is well-positioned to take advantage of what is forecast to be remarkable growth in the already rapidly expanding market for LFP-type powders in a market that is forecast to grow fivefold over the next 10 years.