S. Korean startup mass-produces new material for high-performance EV batteries

By Park Sae-jin Posted : February 27, 2024, 13:58 Updated : February 27, 2024, 22:00
Courtesy of SM Labs
[Courtesy of SM Labs]

SEOUL -- SM Labs, a startup established by the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology, has achieved a breakthrough in the mass production of single-crystal clusters used as cathode electrodes in high-performance batteries designed for rapid-charging electric vehicles (EVs).

This milestone comes as battery manufacturers compete to develop high-energy-density 46-series cylindrical batteries, crucial components for next-generation EVs. SM Labs' single-crystal cluster technology addresses the limitations of current cathode materials, which hamper the rapid-charging capabilities of high-performance EV batteries.

According to SM Labs, the company has successfully mass-produced single-crystal cluster material for high-performance battery electrodes. Traditional batteries utilizing single-crystal electrode material with crystals sized around four nanometers exhibit lower output characteristics, limiting their charging capability.

The new electrode material, featuring a high nickel content, enables high-energy density batteries to charge up to their theoretical capacity. SM Labs' single-crystal cluster technology involves bonding multiple smaller single-crystal particles to enhance output characteristics for faster charging.

Test results have shown that batteries equipped with the new material achieved over 86 percent of their theoretical capacity within a 15-minute charging window, representing a significant improvement over existing single-crystal materials.

"We have achieved the highest possible battery charging efficiency level through our single-crystal cluster technology," SM Labs' CEO, Cho Jae-pil told Aju Korea Daily on February 27, adding: "The single-crystal cluster cathode material also outperforms multi-crystal cathode material, commonly used for high-performance batteries, but which is not compatible with cylindrical batteries."

SM Labs has commenced supplying its new cathode material to South Korean secondary battery maker Kumyang and plans to construct a third plant by mid-2024, increasing the annual manufacturing capacity to 30,000 tons.

The company's technological prowess has earned recognition from the South Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Energy as a key player in the national advanced strategic technology sector. Founded in 2018, SM Labs has attracted significant investment and is now preparing for a listing on KOSDAQ, the South Korean version of the U.S stock market NASDAQ, within this year.
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