Patent application title: High Density Lithium Cobalt Oxide for Rechargeable Batteries
Zhaohui Chen (Fort Saskatchewan, CA)
Umicore (Brussels, BE)
Robert Ellenwood (Sherwood Park, CA)
IPC8 Class: AH01M4525FI
Class name: Stock material or miscellaneous articles coated or structually defined flake, particle, cell, strand, strand portion, rod, filament, macroscopic fiber or mass thereof particulate matter (e.g., sphere, flake, etc.)
Publication date: 2013-03-21
Patent application number: 20130071661
The disclosure relates to positive electrode material used for Li-ion
batteries, a precursor and process used for preparing such materials, and
Li-ion battery using such material in its positive electrode. The
disclosure describes a higher density LiCoO2 positive elecdtrode
material for lithium secondary batteries, with a specific surface area
(BET) below 0.2 m2/g, and a volumetric median particle size (d50) of
more than 15 μm. This product has improved specific capacity and
rate-capability. Other embodiments of the disclosure are an aggregated
Co(OH)2, which is used as a precursor, the electrode mix and the
battery manufactured using above-mentioned LiCoO2.
1. A precursor compound of a lithium cobalt oxide powder, wherein the
precursor compound consists of either one or more of powderous
non-sintered agglomerated cobalt oxide, hydroxide and oxy-hydroxide, and
has a secondary particle size with a d50 of more than 15 μm, and
wherein the lithium cobalt oxide powder is for use as an active positive
electrode material in lithium-ion batteries, has a d50 of more than 15
μm, a specific surface area (BET) of less than 0.2 m2/g, a Li to
Co atomic ratio between 0.980 and 1.010, and an OH.sup.- content between
0.010 and 0.015 wt %.
2. The precursor compound of claim 1, wherein the secondary particles are essentially spherical.
3. The precursor compound of claim 1, wherein the lithium cobalt oxide powder further comprises doping elements and has a doping elements to Co atomic ratio between 0.001 and 0.05, and a Li to the sum of Co and dopants atomic ratio between 0.980 and 1.010.
4. The precursor compound of claim 1, wherein the lithium cobalt oxide powder further comprises Mg as a doping element and has a Mg to Co atomic ratio between 0.001 and 0.05, and a Li to the sum of Co and Mg atomic ratio between 0.980 and 1.010.
5. The precursor compound of claim 1, wherein the lithium cobalt oxide powder is a first powder in a powder mixture that is used as an active positive electrode material in lithium-ion batteries, wherein the first powder comprises at least 50% by weight of the powder mixture, and wherein the powder mixture further comprises a second powderous active component consisting of a lithium transition-metal oxide.
6. The precursor compound of claim 5, wherein the median particle size d50 of the second powderous active component is smaller than that of the first powder, and wherein the particle size distribution of the powder mixture is multi modal.
7. The precursor compound of claim 6, wherein the second powderous active component consists of lithium cobalt oxide and the mixture has a BET of less than 0.5 m2/g.
 This application is a divisional of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/665,428, filed Apr. 1, 2010, which is a national stage application of PCT/EP2008/004629, filed Jun. 10, 2008, which claims priority to European Patent Application No. 07012781.6, filed Jun. 29, 2007, and to European Patent Application No. 07023548.6, filed Dec. 5, 2007. This application also claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/929,614, filed Jul. 5, 2007.
 The invention relates to positive electrode material used for Li-ion batteries, a precursor and process used for preparing such materials, and Li-ion battery using such material in its positive electrode.
 Compared to Ni--Cd and Ni-MH rechargeable batteries, Li-ion batteries boast an enhanced energy density, mainly due to their higher 3.6 V working voltage. Since their commercialization in 1991 by SONY, Li-ion batteries have seen their volumetric energy density increase continuously. In 1995, the capacity of a typical 18650 cylindrical cell was about 1.3 Ah. In 2006, the capacity of the same type of cell is about 2.6 Ah. Such a high energy density has enabled a wide range of applications. Li-ion batteries have become the dominant secondary battery for portable application, representing a market share of about 70% in 2006.
 Such significant increase of energy density of Li-ion batteries has been initially realized by optimizing cell design, accommodating more active electrode materials in a fixed volume cell. Later efforts concentrated on improving the energy density of the electrodes. Using a high density active electrode material is one way to achieve this goal. As LiCoO2 still continues to be used as positive electrode material for the majority of commercial Li-ion batteries, a highly dense variety of this material is in demand.
 The tap density of electrode materials is usually a good indicator of electrode density. However, in some cases, a high tap density does not guarantee a high electrode density. For example, as demonstrated by Ying et al. (Journal of power Sources, 2004) or in CN1206758C, the tap density of a LiCoO2 powder with large secondary spherical particle size, but small primary size, can be as high as 2.8 g/cm3. However, because of its small primary particle size, and possibly because of voids in the secondary particles, the obtained electrode density is not correspondingly high. For this reason, density of electrode materials should preferably be measured under a pressure similar to the industrial conditions prevailing during actual electrode manufacture, instead of by tapping. In this invention, density therefore refers to press density, and not to tap density.
 The theoretical density of LiCoO2 is about 5.1 g/cm3. For actual LiCoO2 powders, factors that impact the density are a.o. the shape of particles, the size of primary particles and the particle size distribution. In today's industry, the median primary particle size of LiCoO2 used for different application is in the range of 1 to 20 μm. Generally, the larger the median primary particle size (d50), the higher is the press density. In addition, as proposed in CN1848491A, electrode density can be increased further by mixing larger LiCoO2 particles with 15 to 40 wt % of finer particles.
 Besides density reasons, a large median primary particle size is also desirable for safety purposes, especially for large cells such as the 18650 model cylindrical cells that are used in laptop computer. During charge, lithium atoms in LiCoO2 are partially removed. LiCoO2 becomes Li1-xCoO2 with x>0. At high temperatures caused by certain abuse condition, Li1-xCoO2 tends to decompose and then to release O2. The released O2 easily reacts with organic solvent in the battery electrolyte, resulting in fire or explosion of the battery. Using LiCoO2 with a large median primary particle size and low specific surface area (BET) reduces these risks, as pointed out by Jiang J. et al. (Electrochimica Acta, 2004).
 Therefore, for both safety and energy density reasons, LiCoO2 with large median primary particle size, such as 15 μm or above, is preferred, in particular for large Li-ion cells. Materials with a large mass median primary particle size (d50) have also a relatively low BET. A d50 larger than 15 μm typically leads to a BET below 0.2 m2/g.
 In a usual manufacture process of LiCoO2, powderous Co3O4 and Li2CO3 are mixed and then fired at a temperature ranging from 800° C. to 1100° C. The d50 of the Co3O4 needs to be relatively small, usually below 5 μM, to ensure a sufficient reactivity. The growth of the LiCoO2 particles is controlled by the firing temperature and time, and by the amount of excess Li (added as Li2CO3). To make LiCoO2 with a d50 larger than 15 μm, at least 6 at. % of excess Li per Co atom is needed, as this excess favours crystal growth. However, part of the excess Li also enters the LiCoO2 structure. Therefore, the final product will be Li over-stoichiometric. This is why all current LiCoO2 material with large primary particle size (or a low BET, which is equivalent) is significantly over-stoichiometric. Due to this excess Li in their structure, such materials have a lower capacity because some active Co3+ has been replaced by inactive Li.sup.+. In this respect, it should be noted that in this application, LiCoO2 is used to designate a wide variety of lithium cobalt oxides having stoichiometries that may slightly deviate from the theoretical.
 One example of this process can be found in EP 1 281 673 A 1. Here a composition Li Co.sub.(1-x)MgxO2 is disclosed, wherein x is 0.001 to 0.15, and having an average particle diameter of 1.0 to 20 μm and a BET of 0.1 to 1.6 m2/g. However, the examples clearly show that the inventor did not succeed in manufacturing a lithium cobalt (magnesium) oxide powder having both of: a d50 of more than 15 μm, and a specific surface area (BET) of less than 0.2 m2/g. The maximum d50 achieved in this document is 8.3 μm in a comparative example.
 It is finally also desirable for electrode materials to provide good rate capability. Rate capability is defined as the ratio of specific discharge capacity at a higher discharge rate (typically 2 C), to the specific discharge capacity at a lower rate (typically 0.1 C). Unfortunately, current LiCoO2 with large primary particle size shows relatively poor rate capability, as shown in JP3394364 and by Chen Yan-bin et al. (Guangdong Youse Jinshu Xuebao, 2005). Such poor rate capability is considered to be related to the longer Li diffusion path for material with larger primary particle size when Li is removed or reinserted during charge or discharge.
 In summary, LiCoO2 with a large primary particle size is preferred for Li-ion battery for improved safety and energy density. However, current large particle size powders show sub-optimal capacity and rate capability because of the significant Li-excess in their structure.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
 A first principal objective of this invention is therefore to provide a relatively coarse-grained electrochemically active LiCoO2 powder, without significant Li-excess.
 The first active product embodiment of the invention concerns a lithium cobalt oxide powder for use as an active positive electrode material in lithium-ion batteries, having a d50 of more than 15 μm, a BET of less than 0.2 m2/g, and a Li to Co atomic ratio between 0.980 and 1.010, preferably of less than 1.000, more preferably of less than 0.999. The mentioned particle size is evidently a primary particle size, and the particles are neither agglomerated or coagulated, nor aggregated.
 This Li to Co ratio range is chosen so that such composition gives a discharge capacity of more than 144 mAh/g at 2C, and rate capability (Q2C/Q0.1C) of more than 91%. For product with a Li to Co ratio lower than 0.980, electrochemically inactive and thus undesired CO3O4 has been identified with X-ray diffraction.
 It should be mentioned that in US 2002/119371 A 1 an electrochemically active material is used, having the formula of a ternary (Li-Me1-O) or quaternary (Li-Me1-Me2-O) lithium transition metal oxides, wherein Me1 and Me2 are selected from the group consisting of Ti, V, Cr, Fe, Mn, Ni, Co. It can further comprise up to about 15 atom percent of Mg, Al, N or F to stabilize the structure, and have a BET of 0.1-2 m2/g and a particle size of from about 1 to about 50 μm. However, the ratio Li/Co is said to be in the wide range of 0.98 to about 1.05, without giving a more specific example.
 Also, in EP 1 052716 A2 a Li-transition metal composite oxide Li A M (1-x)MexO2 is disclosed, with M being Co, Ni, Mn, V, Ge and the like, and preferably LiCoO2, where A is 0.05-1.5, preferably 0.1-1.1, and x can be zero. This composite oxide preferably has an average particle size of 10-25 μm, and also preferably has a BET of 0.1-0.3 m2/g. In the examples (Table 1) however, the combination of average particle size above 15 μm and BET under 0.2 m2/g is not disclosed together with a Li/Co atomic ratio between 0.980 and 1.010.
 The second active product embodiment of the invention concerns a lithium cobalt oxide powder for use as an active positive electrode material in lithium-ion batteries, having a d50 of more than 15 μm, a BET of less than 0.2 m2/g, and with an OH.sup.- content between 0.010 and 0.015 wt % more preferably between 0.0125 and 0.015.
 This OH.sup.- range was found to correspond to the nearly stoichiometric products delivering the optimal electrochemical performances. By OH.sup.- content is meant the OH.sup.- as determined by acid-base titration of an aqueous dispersion of the lithium cobalt oxide powder. Titration is performed using a 0.1 M HCl solution. As some carbonates could be present, the relevant amount of acid is calculated as the amount of acid to reach pH 7, minus the amount of acid to reach pH 4 from pH 7.
 It should be mentioned here that in US 2006/263690 A1 a positive electrode material LipCoxMyOxFa is claimed, where 0.9≦p≦1.1, y and a may be zero (and x=1), 1.9≦z≦2.1. D50 is from 5 to 15 μm (although also up to 20 μm is mentioned singularly), and BET from 0.3 to 0.7 m2/g. This lithium composite oxide has a remaining alkali amount of at most 0.02, and preferably at most 0.01 wt %. All of the examples show a combination of a BET value over 0.2 m2/g, and a D50 under 15 μm.
 In WO99/49528 (equivalent to EP 1 069 633 A 1) on the other hand, a LiCoO2 is disclosed which comprises a mixture of primary particles of small crystals having a Feret's diameter in a projection drawing by SEM observation in a range from 0.4 to 10 μm and an average diameter of 5 μm or less, and secondary particles formed by `gathering` of the primary particles and having a diameter of 4 to 30 μm, wherein the mole ratio of Co to Li is 0.97 to 1.03, and at least a part of small crystals constituting the secondary particles are joint by the junction through sintering, and the secondary particles are in the shape of a circle or an ellipse. This material is preferably obtained by mixing a lithium salt and a cobalt source where cobalt oxyhydroxide (CoOOH) is used as a raw material and comprises secondary particles falling in the range of 4 to 30 μm and formed by gathering of a number of primary particles of 0.2 to 0.8 μm and subsequently, by carrying out a heat treating on this mixture.
 The characteristics of both the first and second embodiments of the invention mentioned before can advantageously be combined.
 The above mentioned dependency of capacity and rate capability on the Li to Co ratio is also applicable to doped products, in particular for Mg-doped LiCoO2. A third active product embodiment is therefore a lithium cobalt oxide powder for use as an active positive electrode material in lithium-ion batteries according to embodiments 1 and 2, further comprising Mg as doping elements with a Mg to Co atomic ratio between 0.001 to 0.05. However, in this case, it is the atomic ratio of Li to the sum of Co and Mg (instead of to Co alone) that should be between 0.980 and 1.010, and be preferably less than 1.000, and more preferably less than 0.999.
 As described above, mixing relatively coarse lithium cobalt oxide powder with finer powder can further increase the electrode density. Therefore, the fourth active product embodiment of this invention is defined a powder mixture for use as an active positive electrode material in lithium-ion batteries, comprising at least 50% by weight of a first powder according to any one of embodiments one to three, and comprising a second powdered active component consisting of lithium transition-metal oxide. The said second powder should preferably be finer than said first powder, and, in particular result in a powder mixture showing a bimodal particle size distribution.
 Such a bimodal powder mixture should preferably comprise an electrochemically active second powder, consisting of lithium cobalt oxide, the mixture having a BET of less than 0.5 m2/g.
 A second principal objective of this invention is to provide an economical precursor that can be used to manufacture the invented products effectively and economically.
 Usually, LiCoO2 is made by solid state reaction of Co3O4 as a Co source with Li2CO3 as a Li source.
 As explained above, the customary use of Co3O4 as a precursor for LiCoO2 has been found to imply the addition of excess Li when large particle sizes are sought, this excess resulting in undesired side effects, such as reduced capacity and rate capability. Moreover, and from the point of view of process robustness, it appears that the mass median primary particle size (d50) of the LiCoO2 product is very sensitive to variations of the firing temperature and of the Li-excess. Indeed, a 10° C. variation in firing temperature causes a d50 change of 2 to 3 μm, and a 1% variation in Li causes a d50 change of 2 to 4 μm. Therefore, using Co3O4, a very strict control of the Li to Co blending ratio and of the firing temperature is required in order to obtain a consistent result. Such a control is difficult to ensure, in particular when production is envisaged at an industrial scale.
 This problem does not occur when using a specially prepared aggregated Co(OH)2 as a precursor. Moreover, Co3O4 is relatively expensive compared to other alternatives such as Co(OH)2. To reduce costs, Co(OH)2 has therefore already been proposed to replace Co3O4 as a cheaper Co source, as for example in JP2002321921. However, two firing steps are needed according to the described process. Due to the high costs of such a double firing process, the total savings remain limited.
 According to the inventors' results, the shape of the aggregated Co(OH)2 precursor particles can be preserved after firing with a Li precursor. The secondary particle size of the end product is only slightly smaller than that of aggregated Co(OH)2 precursor. The primary particle size of LiCoO2 still depends on the firing conditions, such as Li to Co ratio, firing temperature and firing time.
 With the invented aggregated precursor, using a suitable blending ratio of Li to Co, and a single firing step, the primary particles in the end product grow larger, while there is little change in secondary particle size. Under certain conditions, such as with a blending ratio of Li to Co between 1.04 and 1.06, and a firing temperature in the range of 960 to 1020° C., the primary particles forming the secondary structure can indeed grow together. In this way, and by using aggregated Co(OH)2, the products mentioned in the aforementioned embodiments can be prepared cost effectively.
 A precursor product according to this invention is thus defined as either one or more of a non-sintered agglomerated powderous cobalt oxide, hydroxide and oxy-hydroxide, having a secondary particle size with a d50 of more than 15 μm. Preferably the primary particles have a primary particle size with a d50 of less than 5 μm. The secondary particles preferably have a spherical shape. The cobalt oxide can either be Co3O4, Co2O3, or a partially oxidized and dried Co(OH)2. It is important that the secondary particles of the precursor do not contain any sintered primary particles, since the desired result can only be obtained using a single firing step.
 A third principal objective of this invention concerns a process for manufacturing the invented active products, starting from the invented precursor products.
 To this end, a process is defined whereby the Co precursor is mixed with Li source, according to a Li to Co ratio in the range between 1.04 and 1.06, and firing the mixture with a single firing at temperature between 960° C. and 1020° C. This single-firing process comprises the steps of:
 providing for a precursor compound as described above,
 mixing said precursor compound with a Li source according to a Li to Co ratio R between 1.04 and 1.06, and
 firing said mixture with a single firing at a temperature T between 960° C. and 1020° C., whereby the quotient Q of the firing temperature T and the Li to Co ratio R corresponds to 920≦Q≦965. When 1.04≦R≦1.05, then preferably 920≦Q≦960, and more preferably 925≦Q≦945. When 1.05<R≦1.06, then preferably 925≦Q≦965, and more preferably 945≦Q≦960.
 Another objective of the invention is to provide Li-ion batteries with increased energy density and rate capability. With the product mentioned in the first embodiment, the capacity and rate capability of a cell with certain volume can be increased. Therefore the energy density and rate capability can be improved.
 Finally, this invention also concerns Li-ion batteries that use the product mentioned in the abovementioned active product embodiments, as positive electrode materials.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES
 The following figures illustrate the invention.
 FIG. 1: Discharge capacity and rate capability vs. the Li to Co ratio for LiCoO2 with a BET of 0.15 to 0.18 m2/g and a d50 of 15.7 to 18.2 μm.
 FIG. 2: Discharge capacity and rate capability vs. OH.sup.- content for LiCoO2 with a BET of 0.15 to 0.18 m2/g and a d50 of 15.7 to 18.2 μm.
 FIG. 3: XRD diffraction pattern of Example 1 (a) and Comparative Example 2 (b).
 FIG. 4: SEM image of the aggregated precursor used in Examples 1, 2, and 3.
 FIG. 5: SEM image of final product according to Example 1.
 FIG. 6: SEM image of final product according to Comparative Example 3.
 Products with similar median particle size (in the range of 15.7 μm to 18.2 μm) and similar BET (in the range of 0.15 m2/g to 0.18 m2/g) but with various Li to Co ratios (in the range of 0.95 to 1.02) were prepared. Particle size and specific surface area of all products studied were kept nearly constant. The Li diffusion path lengths for the different products are therefore comparable. The variation in discharge capacity (Q) at low rate (0.1 C) and at high rate (2 C) amongst the products therefore can be attributed to variation of the Li to Co ratio. According to electrochemical results, as shown in FIG. 1, products with a Li to Co ratio in the range of 0.980 to 1.010 offer optimal characteristics: a high capacity with only a limited decrease at high rate, corresponding to a rate capability (ratio of Q@0.1 C to Q@2 C) of more than 91%. With lower Li to Co ratios, products have less capacity, probably due to the appearance of inactive Co3O4 impurities. For example, a significant X-ray diffraction peak of Co3O4 was found in the diffraction pattern of a product with a ratio of 0.970. On the other hand, products with too high Li to Co ratios lose some of their charge-discharge capacity, probably because of the substitution of active Co3+ by inactive Li.sup.+.
 FIG. 2 shows a similar correlation as a function of the Off content for the same samples used in FIG. 1. The optimal OH.sup.- range is 0.010 to 0.015 wt %. As OH.sup.- content increases, the rate capability initially increases. However, as it increases beyond 0.015 wt %, the rate capability sharply degrades.
 The present invention is described in more detail by examples and comparative examples below. However, the examples are only illustrative, and, therefore, not intended to limit the scope of the present invention.
 To prepare Co(OH)2 or Mg-doped Co(OH)2, a suitable Co2+ salt, preferably CoSO4.6H2O, is dissolved in water. The so obtained solution typically contains about 55 g/L of Co. Co(OH)2 is then precipitated by adding an aqueous base, preferably a solution of 25% NaOH, and a 260 g/L NH3 to the Co solution into a stirred and heated, preferably to 62° C., overflow reactor tank. The reactor tank is typically filled with a seed slurry of Co(OH)2 containing NaOH, Na2SO4, ammonia, and water. As the reaction proceeds, the resulting overflow slurry is collected, and a pink solid is separated from the supernatant by filtration. After washing with water, the solid is dried in a convection oven to a constant mass. The resulting powder is a highly pure, spheroidal, flowable, oxidation resistant Co(OH)2 that is easily screened and processed.
 Mg-doped Co(OH)2 is produced under similar conditions as the above pure Co(OH)2. The only difference is that instead of using a feed solution of pure CoSO4, the feed solution is supplemented with a suitable Mg2+ salt, preferably MgSO4.
 During the precipitation reaction, pH (temperature uncompensated) is maintained between 10.4 and 11.3, preferably between 10.8 and 11.0. In general, a higher pH will result in the precipitation of smaller secondary particles, while a lower pH will result in the precipitation of larger secondary particles. The resulting spherical Co(OH)2 has d50 particle size volume distribution values between 5 and 50 μm and spans (defined as (d90-d10)/d50) ranging from 0.5 to 2.0. More precisely, the steady state production of Co(OH)2 will result in D50 particle sizes ranging from 14 to 21 μm with spans ranging from 0.9 to 1.2. Alternatively, a less spherical agglomerated Co(OH)2 material can be produced by increasing the pH. This material retains water more easily and has steady state d50 particle sizes ranging from 4-14 μm with spans typically greater than 1.0.
 Particle size distribution of LiCoO2 is measured using a Malvern Mastersizer 2000. The median volumetric particle size is assumed to be equivalent to the median mass particle size represented by d50. The specific surface area of LiCoO2 is measured with the Brunauer-Emmett-Teller (BET) method using a Micromeritics Tristar. To measure the press density of LiCoO2, a mixture is made with 95 wt % active material, 2.5 wt % carbon black, and 2.5 wt % polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) in N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP). After drying, 1.2 g powder is put in a SPEX 3613 13 mm die set and pressed under 3.7 metric ton per cm2. Press density is calculated by dividing the mass by the volume of the pressed pellet. The OH.sup.- content of fired LiCoO2 is measured by pH titration in water with a 0.1 M HCl solution.
 Electrochemical performance is tested in coin type cells, with a Li foil as counter electrode in a lithium tetrafluoroborate (LiBF4) type electrolyte at 24° C. Cells are charged to 4.3 V and discharged to 3.0 V. A specific capacity of 160 mAh/g is assumed for the determination of the discharge rates. For example, for discharge at 2 C, a specific current of 320 mA/g is used.
 A mixture is made with aggregated Co(OH)2 with a d50 of 19.3 μm and Li2CO3 with a Li to Co (atomic) blending ratio of 1.05. The mixed powder is fired in air at 980° C. for 12 hours. After cooling, the obtained material is milled and screened with a 270 mesh screen.
 Same as example 1, except that the firing temperature is 970° C.
 A mixture is made with aggregated Co(OH)2 with a d50 of 19.3 μm and Li2CO3 with a Li to Co blending ratio of 1.04. The mixed powder is fired in air at 990° C. for 10 hours. After cooling, the obtained material is milled and screened with a 270 mesh screen.
 A mixture is made with aggregated (Co0.99Mg0.01)(OH)2 with a d50 of 18.7 μm, which is dried at 175° C. for 5 hours, and Li2CO3 with a Li to (Co0.99Mg0.01) blending ratio of 1.05. The mixed powder is fired in air at 980° C. for 12 hours. After cooling, the obtained material is milled and screened with a 270 mesh screen.
 Product from Example 3 is mixed with commercially available Cellcore® D5 (Umicore, Belgium) in an 80 to 20 weight ratio. Cellcore® DS has a d50 of 6.5 μm, which is smaller than the product from Example 3 (17.4 μm). The press density of the mixed powder is 3.83 g/cm3, which is higher than that of Example 3 (3.79 g/cm3).
Comparative Example 1
 A mixture is made with Co3O4 with a d50 of 3 μm and Li2CO3 with a Li to Co blending ratio of 1.065. The mixed powder is fired in air at 960° C. for 12 hours. After cooling, the obtained material is milled and screened with a 270 mesh screen.
Comparative Example 2
 A mixture is made with aggregated Co(OH)2 with a d50 of 19.3 μm and Li2CO3 with a Li to Co blending ratio of 1.035. The mixed powder is fired in air at 1020° C. for 10 hours. After cooling, the obtained material is milled and screened with a 270 mesh screen.
Comparative Example 3
 A mixture is made with aggregated Co(OH)2 with a d50 of 19.3 μm and Li2CO3 with a Li to Co blending ratio of only 1.005. The mixed powder is fired in air at 920° C. for 12 hours. After cooling, the obtained material is milled and screened with a 270 mesh screen.
Comparative Example 4
 A mixture is made with aggregated Co(OH)2 with a d50 of only 9 μm and Li2CO3 with a Li to Co blending ratio of 1.06. The mixed powder is fired in air at 960° C. for 12 hours. After cooling, the obtained material is milled and screened with a 270 mesh screen.
Comparative Example 5
 A mixture is made with Mg-doped Co3O4 (Co to Mg ratio of 99:1) with a d50 of 3 μm and Li2CO3 with a Li to Co blending ratio of 1.057. The mixed powder was fired in air at 960° C. for 15 hours. After cooling, the obtained material is milled and screened with a 270 mesh screen.
Comparative Example 6
 A mixture is made with aggregated Co(OH)2 with a d50 of 19.3 μm and Li2CO3 with a Li to Co blending ratio of 1.06. The mixed powder is fired in air at 960° C. for 12 hours. After cooling, the obtained material is milled and screened with a 270 mesh screen.
Comparative Example 7
 A mixture is made with aggregated Co(OH)2 with a d50 of 19.1 μm and Li2CO3 with a Li to Co blending ratio of 1.07. The mixed powder is fired in air at 950° C. for 10 hours. After cooling, the obtained material is milled and screened with a 270 mesh screen.
 Physical properties and selected electrochemical results for examples and comparative examples are listed in Table 1. Even though different Li to Co ratios and temperatures are used for the Examples 1 to 3, the d50 of the particles are about the same, in the range of 17.0 to 17.4 μm. This large particle size is reflected by the low BET, which is 0.17 m2/g or below. With such a large particle size, all three examples give high press density, around 3.77 g/cm3. Regarding chemical composition, they have a Li to Co ratio of almost one. Their OH.sup.- contents are in the range of 0.012 to 0.014 wt %. They have excellent discharge capacity at 2 C rate, as well as excellent rate capability.
 In Comparative Example 1, Co3O4 is used as a precursor. The obtained LiCoO2 has a smaller d50 than in Example 2, where Co(OH)2 was used, even though a higher Li to Co ratio was chosen in the blend. This results in a high Li-excess in the final product. This excess penalizes the rate capability, which is poor compared to Example 2, even though the particle size is slightly smaller. Probably due to its wider particle size distribution, the product has a slightly higher press density.
 The powder according to Comparative Example 2 is made at a relatively high temperature, but at a low blending ratio. The obtained powder therefore has a significant Li deficit. Its OH.sup.- content is only 0.008 wt %. In this case, there is Co3O4 present as an impurity in the product. This is clearly shown in FIG. 3, where the product according to Example 1 is shown for reference.
 The powder of Comparative Example 3 is prepared starting from the same Co(OH)2 precursor as in Examples 1 to 3, but with a lower Li to Co ratio and a lower firing temperature. The product still has d50 of 17 μm, which is just slightly smaller than the 19.3 of the Co(OH)2. However, this product has a low press density of only 3.52 g/cm3, because of its small primary particles and ensuing high BET of 0.45 m2/g. This example demonstrates that a large primary particle size is needed to obtain a high density LiCoO2.
 The powder of Comparative Example 4 is prepared starting from Co(OH)2 precursor with badly formed secondary particles. Even though it is blended and fired in the same conditions as Example 2, it has a d50 of only 9.8 μm and a low press density of 3.63 g/cm3. To make high density material with such a precursor having a small secondary particle size, a high Li to Co blending ratio is needed. This is not recommended because the so obtained LiCoO2 will end up with a too high Li excess. Therefore, to make LiCoO2 with a large primary particle size, Co(OH)2 with large secondary particle size is needed.
TABLE-US-00001 TABLE 1 Precursor Blend Product d50 Li to Co Firing Li to Co OH.sup.- d50 BET Density Q2C Rate Type (μm) (at./at.) (° C.) (at./at.) (wt %) (μm) (m2/g) (g/cm3) (mAh/g) (%) Ex. 1 Co(OH)2 19.3 1.05 980 0.998 0.013 17.4 0.15 3.76 147.4 91.8 Ex. 2 Co(OH)2 19.3 1.05 970 0.999 0.014 17.0 0.17 3.75 147.8 92.2 Ex. 3 Co(OH)2 19.3 1.04 990 0.984 0.012 17.4 0.14 3.79 146.2 91.2 Comp Co3O4 3 1.065 960 1.016 0.018 13.9 0.19 3.79 141.0 88.9 Ex. 1 Comp Co(OH)2 19.3 1.035 1020 0.963 0.008 17.8 0.16 3.76 141.7 89.9 Ex. 2 Comp Co(OH)2 19.3 1.005 920 17 0.45 3.52 Ex. 3 Comp Co(OH)2 9 1.06 960 9.8 3.63 Ex. 4 Comp Co(OH)2 19.3 1.06 960 1.019 0.021 18.2 0.16 3.78 142.8 89.9 Ex. 6 Comp Co(OH)2 19.1 1.07 950 1.025 0.041 23.2 0.13 3.78 140.6 89.2 Ex. 7
 Table 2 lists results related to Mg-doped products. The product according to Example 4 has about the same density as the product according to Comparative Example 5. With a Li to Co-plus-Mg ratio close to 1.0, Example 4 boasts a higher capacity and a better rate capability than Comparative Example 5.
TABLE-US-00002 TABLE 2 Precursor Blend Product d50 Li to Co Firing Li to (Co + Mg) d50 BET Density Q2C Rate Type (μrn) (at./at.) (° C.) (at./at.) (μrn) (m2/g) (g/cm3) (mAh/g) (%) Ex. 4 Co(OH)2 18.7 1.05 980 0.996 20.1 0.18 3.79 137.2 87.5 Co/Mg = 99 Comp Co3O4 3 1.057 980 1.017 17.3 0.16 3.78 134.8 86.8 Ex. 5 Co/Mg = 99
 Example 5 is the result of mixing powder from Example 4 with 20% of LiCoO2 with a smaller d50. Press density increases from 3.79 g/cm3 to 3.83 g/cm3.
 In Table 3 the process characteristics are investigated. In fact, to obtain the stoichiometric high density LiCoO2 according to the invention, the correct combination of blending ratio R (=Li/Co) and firing temperature T should be respected, as listed in the following table.
TABLE-US-00003 TABLE 3 R vs T diagram R T 1.04 1.045 1.05 1.055 1.06 960 Over Over Over 970 Over Over 980 Over 990 1000 Under 1010 Under Under 1020 Under Under Under
 In the table, "Over" means that an excess of Li is used for a firing temperature that is too low. On the contrary, "Under" stands for firing at a temperature which is too high for the given Li/Co ratio. For " " the correct conditions are used.
Patent applications by Robert Ellenwood, Sherwood Park CA
Patent applications by Zhaohui Chen, Fort Saskatchewan CA
Patent applications by UMICORE
Patent applications in class Particulate matter (e.g., sphere, flake, etc.)
Patent applications in all subclasses Particulate matter (e.g., sphere, flake, etc.)