New technology could wean the battery world off cobalt

Lithium batteries use more than 50 percent of all cobalt produced globally. This is because lithium ions are stored in cathodes which are layered structures. Cobalt is crucial to maintaining this layered structure.  Now, a research team led by scientists at UC Berkeley, including MSE’s Gerbrand Ceder, has opened the door to using other metals for lithium-based batteries.  In 2014, Ceder’s lab discovered a way that cathodes can maintain a high energy density without these layers, a concept called disordered rock salts.  The new study shows how manganese can work within this concept, which is a promising step away from cobalt dependence because manganese is a cheap element.  “You can pretty much use any element in the periodic table now because we’ve shown that cathodes don’t have to be layered,” Ceder said. “Suddenly we have a lot more chemical freedom, and I think that’s where the real excitement is because now we can do exploration of new cathodes.” Read more here.