Custom Processing Services Blog

You ask, we answer: Top 7 questions about battery powder production

Dev Testing, Oct 11, 2023 12:00:00 AM

Battery powder processing is a critical aspect of modern battery manufacturing. And there’s no doubt demand is growing. The electric vehicle (EV) industry alone is experiencing a 35% sales growth rate this year compared to 2022 (that’s an estimated 14 million zero-emission battery electric vehicles).1

From the basics of battery powder production to advanced techniques and emerging trends, we’re happy to share our battery powder production expertise. These 7 questions are often asked of our team. If you need more detailed answers about battery powder processing, please contact CPS. We’re here to guide you to smart decisions and successful results.

Top 7 Questions About Battery Powder Processing:

  1. What is powder processing, and how does it work?
  2. What is the role of a toll processor?
  3. What toll processing technologies are most important for battery powder production?
  4. What are the advantages of using jet milling in powder processing?
  5. In what industries (and what applications) is battery powder technology most used?
  6. What are the key considerations for safety and maintenance in powder processing?
  7. Can battery powder processing be done in-house?

1. What is powder processing, and how does it work?

As you likely know, a lithium-ion battery’s precise formulation can’t be achieved using minerals — lithium, cobalt, manganese, nickel, graphite, etc. — extracted straight from the earth. They must be processed to uniform particulates so each battery performs as needed.

For batteries, powder processing means grinding and managing particle size, shape, and surface area. Applying different methods changes raw minerals’ randomness into consistency, which is what battery systems require. That’s where a toll processor comes in.

2. What is the role of a toll processor?

Every particle — and every decision about processing that particle — impacts the battery system. Battery suppliers should work with a toll processor with a wide array of available equipment to handle the required processes of battery technology, including:

  • Wet milling — converts slurries to powders
  • Hammer and jet milling — reduces particle size 
  • Particle splitting and classification — improves particle size distribution
  • Zinc- and copper-free machinery — helps assure safe battery processing

Equipment on its own doesn’t qualify a toll processor for the needs of battery powder processing. Fully understanding the fundamentals of the raw materials is how toll processors gain the best quality and performance from each mineral.

3. What toll processing technologies are most important for battery powder production?

Toll processors with the right equipment AND technical mastery tightly control particle size and morphology of materials, which impact their electrochemical performance within batteries. Proven processes meet the most challenging specifications through a range of specialty services:

  • Jet milling (including fluidized bed jet milling) — micronizes many materials; inert gases enable milling of flammable/combustible constituents; cryomilling helps with challenging materials
  • Wet media milling — reduces particles to the nanometer range
  • Drying — manages moisture
  • Air jet classification/screening — controls particle size ranges
  • Secondary milling — ensures consistent blending, final particle size, and surface characteristics, as well as deagglomeration
  • Particle surface treatments — exerts greater control over material behavior
  • Fine powder blending — blends particulate ingredients to create a perfectly homogenized product
  • Extrusion — enhances blending capabilities for homogenizing hard-to-blend ingredients, including polymer composites, paste slurries, and reactive materials

A toll processor’s small trial runs can help determine ideal parameters. Scalable processes then allow fast ramp-up to full-scale production. The result is optimized battery performance.

4. What are the advantages of using jet milling in powder processing?

Jet milling was listed first among the toll processing technologies above (question #3) for a reason. Jet milling’s capabilities — fine grinding, narrow distributions, high throughput, low cost, etc. — make it an excellent solution for battery powder production.

  • Size reduction — as mentioned, jet mills grind materials to very fine particle sizes, often in the 1–10 micron range; this increases surface area and reactivity in many battery raw materials
  • Narrow distributions — jet milling produces powders with a very narrow particle size distribution, helping improve battery performance
  • Scalability — jet mills excel at continuous, large-scale processing, which is often required for lithium-ion battery powder production
  • Versatility — jet mills are effective at processing a wide range of materials
  • Purity — since no grinding media is used, jet milling has a low contamination risk
  • Cost effectiveness — jet mills are a cost-efficient option for high-volume battery powder processing
  • Energy efficiency — less energy input is needed compared to mechanical milling techniques

5. In what industries (and what applications) is battery powder technology most used?

As mentioned in the intro, the electric vehicle (EV) industry is growing tremendously, but that’s not the only industry or application that uses battery powder technology. Here are some others:

  • Aerospace
  • Medical Devices
  • Defense
  • Energy Storage
  • Power Tools
  • Consumer Electronics

Advantages such as high energy density, long cycle life, safety, and wide temperature operation make battery powder ideal for many industries and use cases. Ongoing advancements in battery powder processing are expanding applications even further.

6. What are the key considerations for safety and maintenance in battery powder processing?

Handling and processing of the raw materials involved in battery powder processing shouldn’t be entrusted to just anyone. Finding the right toll processor requires doing your due diligence to ensure they have the expertise and capabilities to meet your needs. Key areas to investigate:

  • Relevant certifications and permits for your type of product and industry
  • Demonstrated experience handling similar products and protecting sensitive materials
  • Quality management systems and processes in place
  • Relationships with equipment manufacturers to leverage technical knowledge
  • Financial stability and longevity

Discuss your specific requirements with potential partners. An experienced toll processor collaborates closely to achieve results beyond standard specifications. Leverage their technical teams’ expertise to ensure a tough product goal is attainable. The right partner won't just meet your needs, it’ll exceed them.

7. Can battery powder processing be done in-house?

Speed is critical in the competitive battery industry. Streamlining R&D by running parallel development processes can provide a major market advantage; doing this with a toll processing partner may provide a strategic advantage that in-house capabilities can’t.

An experienced toll processor also understands specialized active materials, binders, and additives and how each must be processed to exacting particle size and morphology requirements to ensure performance.

Plus, an established toll processor already has specialized equipment installed, calibrated, and ready to run, meaning:

  • Faster queue times — processing materials happens without in-house delays
  • Expert teams — smooth management of processes and outcomes
  • No capital expenditures — less out-of-pocket investment is required
  • No additional facility space — headaches of installing new equipment are gone

Battery powder processing and battery powder technology are sophisticated, and you may have additional questions. See what the future of electric vehicles looks like — and a toll processing partner’s place in it — from our guide, Powder Processing for EV Batteries. Click below for your copy!

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