Published on August 8th, 2015 | by James Ayre


LG Chem & 3M Enter Into Nickel-Manganese-Cobalt-Oxide Cathode Materials Patent License Agreements

August 8th, 2015 by  

LG Chem and 3M have entered into a patent license agreement concerning the use of nickel-manganese-cobalt-oxide (NMC) cathode materials in lithium-ion battery technology, according to recent reports.

Regarding the terms of the new agreement, LG Chem has been granted license by 3M to use US Patents: 6,964,828; 7,078,128; 6,660,432; 8,241,791; and 8,685,565. The agreement extends to the uses of the equivalent patents in other countries — this includes those in China, Japan, Korea, Europe, and Taiwan.

lg chem

For some background here, during 3M’s collaboration with Professor Jeff Dahn (as well as his students) at Dalhousie University on the NMC technology, 3M developed a wide range of different compositions of the material. This includes: “NMC 111 (for energy and power); NMC 442 (for energy and power); and an optimized high-power NMC 111 composition with high porosity.”

Previous to this agreement, LG Chem had licensed NMC technology developed at Argonne National Laboratory.

Green Car Congress provides more:

NMC cathode compositions offer a balance of power, energy, thermal stability and low cost. NMC cathode materials can be tailored through changes in composition and morphology to meet a wide range of customer requirements from high-energy handheld consumer electronics to high-power electric vehicles. LG Chem supplies its NMC-based Li-ion cells to a growing number of plug-in vehicles, among them the Chevy Volt.

Broadly, patents on NMC reach back into the 2000s, with Argonne National Laboratory filing the first one in 2000 based on work done by Dr Michael Thackeray, followed shortly thereafter by a patent filed by 3M based on work done by Dr Jeff Dahn at Dalhousie University.

In 2014, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) confirmed the novelty of NMC patents for each (Argonne and 3M). Earlier this year, BASF filed suit against battery materials maker Umicore for infringement of its NMC patents. Umicore is a licensee of 3M NMC patents.

Looking at this recent announcement in that light, it seems clear that the new agreement with 3M is intended to ensure that LG Chem doesn’t have any legal episodes in the future as concerns its use of NMC technology.

The vice president of LG Chem IP Center, Kyunghwa Min, commented: “We are pleased to have reached this agreement with 3M. This license will give our battery customers confidence in LG’s technology and our long-term commitment to the battery industry. The license also opens the door to new opportunities for LG Chem as a supplier of cathode materials to the battery industry.”

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About the Author

's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.

  • Interesting stuff. It got me thinking about battery design limiting factors. Or what inside the workings of a battery is responsible for limiting performance, more or less. I found this somewhat philosophical blog post from Scientific America:

    Moore’s Law and battery technology: No dice

    An interesting quote from the article:

    “The basic reasons why an emerging technology may not follow Moore’s Law is either because we tend to underestimate the complexity of the system to which the technology is applied, or we underestimate the basic principles of physics and chemistry which would inherently constrain a Moore-type breakthrough in that field.”

    and specifically why battery technology doesn’t seem to follow Moore’s law:

    “There is no Moore’s Law for batteries. The reason there is a Moore’s Law for computer processors is that electrons are small and they do not take up space on a chip. Chip performance is limited by the lithography technology used to fabricate the chips; as lithography improves ever smaller features can be made on processors. Batteries are not like this. Ions, which transfer charge in batteries are large, and they take up space, as do anodes, cathodes, and electrolytes.”

    Step aside EEs. Chem E’s got this now.

    • Michael G

      Capacitors are already miniaturized and store energy. I know a little about circuits and anodes and cathodes are part of the miniaturized circuits that comprise cell phones, computers, etc.

      Never say never.

      • You don’t agree with the statement? I believe the issue is transporting ions v. electrons. Ions are bigger, vis a vis the ionic radii relative to an atom. Lithium is like a factor of 90. And there’s only so much that can be done to miniaturize given this. It is an interesting article, I recommend reading it first. Basically saying Moore’s Law tends to get applied to way to many things. Here’s a wonderful primer from UC Davis chemistry wiki:

        • Michael G

          I agree batteries, as most people think about them, are not currently subject to Moore’s “law” (more an observation, really) which is applied where it shouldn’t be. But Moore’s law really just postulates an exponential increase in circuit density with a doubling time of 2 years. Applied to batteries, we have an exponential increase in capacity but at 8% a year we have a doubling time of 9 years. So a Moore’s law with a different time constant.

          I was simply pointing out that anodes and cathodes have already been micro-miniaturized vis-a-vis Moore’s Law, but if you want to get into it (takes off gloves, hands jacket to trusty sidekick)…

          Li (+1) ions are 76 pm (pico-meters = 1×10^(-12) m), but C(+4) ions are only 16 pm. These are bigger than an electron but certainly small enough to miniaturize.

          All anyone cares about is energy storage – not the form. Currently, the most used energy storage system is carbon-based fossils. Batteries currently use ions, capacitors use electrons and have already been miniaturized, and my absolute favorite: SMES – superconducting magnetic energy storage – uses magnetic fields which are most certainly subject to system miniaturization.

          My point, such as it is, is that technological advances usually happen gradually but are subject to random breakthroughs. If room temperature superconductivity is achieved (lots of smart people are working on it), paradigm shift won’t begin to describe it. Making predictions about the future is inherently risky.

          Never say never.

          • TCFlood

            C(+4) as an ion (in the sense of solvated Li+ ion) in a solid/liquid phase does *not* exist.

          • Michael G

            Thanks for the information but if we are going to miniaturize “batteries” like integrated circuits it may not be in the solid liquid/phase.

  • Michael G

    It seems like a competition to see how many metals you can combine in one battery. I hereby lay claim to the lithium-sodium-iron-nickel-magnesium-copper-silver-gold-cobalt-manganese-oxide battery.

    • juxx0r

      it’s been done.

  • eveee

    It means two things. LG’s original formula doesn’t compete well enough, so LG is shopping on the market for a better formula.
    LG is too large and too public to swipe a formula from someone else, as has been done before with LiFePo.
    Considering GMs Bolt “commercialization’ problems, it is an indicator that there is some pressure on LG to come up with a higher performance formula, for range and cost.
    Its a positive indicator that Jeff Dahn’s group work is in the mix.
    Unfortunately for LG, Dahn is a Tesla exclusive now and going forward. That makes it harder for LG to catch up.
    If Tesla is pricing the model 3 in the mid 30k range and has the best battery tech, it is going to be difficult for the Bolt to catch up, particularly since the platform is not a dedicated EV one.
    But LG is shopping for a competitor to the PowerBlock and PowerWall, too.

    • wattleberry

      So much for the puzzlement at GM’s small 30000 projection for the first year.

      • jeffhre

        GM was embarrassed by not reaching initial sales projections for the Volt – not doing that again.

        • wattleberry

          Could be some bargains coming…….but will they be?

          • jeffhre

            Crystal. Ball. Broken 🙂

      • eveee

        Battery cost/performance is the largest driver of EV cost for now.
        Considering the Leaf and Volt present day costs, more than doubling range has to have an impact on battery cost per vehicle.
        Thats what “commercialization” means.

    • jeffhre

      That would be true if LG had been operating in a vacuum, with no competitors and standing pat.

      Yet, every maker is moving forward. It is simply the nature of the present Li Ion market. Search, test, improve, build. Repeat.

      • eveee

        Yup. And LG is behind. But they are showing signs of life and interest in many ways. There abortive attempt at claiming top dog status in EV batteries shows their intent. This foray shows they intend to make it real. Now they have to make it happen. Tesla has woken a lot of competitors with its success in EVs and utility storage. And that’s great news.

    • “Unfortunately for LG, Dahn is a Tesla exclusive now and going forward. That makes it harder for LG to catch up.”
      –This is a big deal. Something to get an investor like me to put a bit more cash into Tesla. 😀

      • Dragon

        I thought Tesla opened all its patents to anyone, so can’t LG just use whatever battery tech Tesla is using? Or is it Panasonic that holds the battery tech patents Tesla is using?

        Plus all these companies hold so many patents that they can probably remain at stalemate by threatening to sue each other. That’s how most big companies manage to ignore patent violations.

        • I’d say Panasonic. But LG Chem is using a very different approach anyway.

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