NFA is a new class of cobalt-free cathodes

NFA cobalt-free cathode
NFA cobalt-free cathode

NFA may soon join LNMO and LFMP as a promising cobalt-free cathode chemistry for EV batteries.



  • Introducing a new class of cobalt-free, nickel-rich layered cathode (LiNixFeyAlzO2).
  • Our cobalt-free cathode powders were synthesized using co-precipitation process.
  • Our cobalt-free cathodes delivered high capacities ~190 mAh/g at 0.1C.
  • We also fabricated a 0.5 Ah (C/3) cobalt-free Li-ion battery pouch cell.
  • The cobalt-free battery delivered good capacities and cycling performance.


Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers have developed a new family of cathodes with the potential to replace the costly cobalt-based cathodes typically found in today’s lithium-ion batteries that power electric vehicles and consumer electronics.

The new class called NFA, which stands for nickel-, iron- and aluminum-based cathode, is a derivative of lithium nickelate and can be used to make the positive electrode of a lithium-ion battery. These novel cathodes are designed to be fast charging, energy dense, cost effective, and longer lasting.

With the rise in the production of portable electronics and electric vehicles throughout the world, lithium-ion batteries are in high demand. According to Ilias Belharouak, ORNL’s scientist leading the NFA research and development, more than 100 million electric vehicles are anticipated to be on the road by 2030. Cobalt is a metal currently needed for the cathode which makes up the significant portion of a lithium-ion battery’s cost.

Although research on the NFA class is in the early stages, Belharouak said that his team’s preliminary results to date indicate that cobalt may not be needed for next-generation lithium-ion batteries.


NFA (nickel, iron and aluminum-based cathode) is still in an early stage of development. Right now the energy density is good but the cycle life is still very poor, with only 88 % capacity retained after 100 cycles and 72 % after 200 cycles.

But don’t worry, in this initial phase of development the poor cycle life is to be expected. Just a few years ago, the first NCM 811 batteries developed in the lab also had a very poor cycle life, but now the mass-produced technology has an EOL (End-Of-Life) that already surpasses 1.000 cycles.


Anyway, it’s yet to be seen if this new cobalt-free cathode chemistry will ever be adopted by a major battery cell maker.

While the Chinese giant CATL is already producing cobalt-free LFP batteries, Korean and Japanese battery cell makers are still undecided on which cobalt-free battery chemistry to adopt. My guess is that it will be LNMO, but we’ll see…



More info:

Pedro Lima

My interest in electric transportation is mostly political. I’m tired of coups and wars for oil. My expectation is that the adoption of electric transportation will be a factor for peace and democracy all over the world.

32 Responses

  1. Earl Colby Pottinger says:

    Once there is money to be made, the researchers start finding approaches that others never thought of before.

    • Pedro Lima says:

      True. That is pretty obvious in the pharmaceutical industry.

      Imagine if COVID-19 was a problem only in Africa. We would have astronauts on Mars before having a vaccine…

      • Earl Colby Pottinger says:

        You just have to look at something like Ebola to see the difference in research.

      • PAco says:

        there is no pandemic… just research info .. free info. no virus, no pandemia, a plandemia.. and a impossed non-vaccine… hazard. peoaple are free.. with CDS… natural food. no drugs needed… spritual growth.. and of course.. free CO2 technoogies like electric cars 😉

  2. Rok says:

    Pedro, interesting chemistry. But isn’t nickel also a (distant) dead end just like cobalt due to its low (higher than cobalt though) supply?

    • Pedro Lima says:

      Hi Rok.

      Yes, after cobalt, nickel should be replaced by cheaper materials.

      Currently, nickel is priced around half the price (17.342 USD per ton) of cobalt (32.000 USD per ton). Both materials are very expensive. Nonetheless, the immediate goal now is to remove cobalt from batteries.

      There is some interesting research in sodium ion batteries (SIBs), but they are still far away from commercialization.

      • Barry says:

        I heard a podcast with the CEO of Faridian, who said his sodium ion cells are currently being made (limited production, I suspect) on a standard Li ion cell production line. He said energy density is comparable to LFP. Sounds promising.

    • Earl Colby Pottinger says:

      The thing to remember Nickel is mass mined using machinery, there are no children mining nickel – unlike cobalt.

    • antrik says:

      AFAIK there is no shortage of nickel resources: mining just has to be accelerated. So it’s more of a temporary bottleneck than an actual dead end…

  3. Maximilian Holland says:

    Good to see more diversity of electro-chemical research. Thanks for this Pedro.

  4. Davidradzieta says:

    The NFA batteries don’t seem to be much better than the current Tesla NCA Batteries after 200 100% charges they are toast They need to switch to the NMC532 like Nissan or the NMC622 LG Chem and safely derate them for a 500k lifespan.

    • JohnR says:

      Not sure what you’re talking about. Nissan has had terrible cycle life with the original LEAF packs while Tesla has had vehicles go over 300,000 miles with constant Supercharging. Basically the opposite of everything you’ve said.

      • Davidradzieta says:

        The current census among Tesla owners is that the Tesla batteries will last about 10 years or 150k miles. The current Tesla batteries are a flop and you cannot even charge them to 100% without permanent cathode damage. They are searching for a replacement. They should switch to the longer lasting NMC622 LG Chem or the Nissan NmC532 million mile formula.

        For a while it looked like Tesla was going to try the CATL NMC811 batteries but they turned out to be hazardous broiler ovens.

        • JohnR says:

          You claim about “current consensus” is simply wrong. Real world data collection is showing beyond 200,000 miles should be expected, and that’s on the older packs. Newer packs will do even better. You don’t know what you’re talking about, or you’re lying.

          • Davidradzieta says:

            Every day another Tesla owner is complaining bout 10 to 20% degradation in the Model 3 that is one or two years old. I’m sorry but thats not my fault so don’t get mad at me. Get mad at Tesla. They are told it is normal.

          • Davidradzieta says:

            It would have been more informative to have included an additional column ibdicayibg the number of batteries. Correct me if I am wrong but the Tesla identified as Hawk had 3 battery replacements?

          • Davidradzieta says:

            And the Hawk Tesla had $60k in repairs if I remember correctly but a lot of it was done under warranty.

          • JohnR says:

            You’re using anectdote and cherry picking while I’m providing large scale data. You of course focus on eHawk which did have pack replacements while ignoring all the Model X’s in that chart which did not. You refer to a few complaints about Model 3 packs while I give you links to data referencing hundreds of vehicles over the long term. Here’s some more for you to ignore:
            What you fail to understand is that often the “loss” of range is just a falure of the BMS to correctly calculate and can be fixed by some deep discharges followed by full charges. Also Tesla does sent out updates which can temporarily reduce reported range but will then send out other updates which fix it. You also seem to fail to understand that people complaining on the forums will represent a higher number of problems than people who don’t have problems and have no reason to post. Your outlook is completely skewed from reality, either by choice or ignorance.

          • Davidradzieta says:

            I was reading one research paper that described how the ncA80 batteries have such a narrow sweet spot. If used on the DoD range they can be very reliable. Ig you over or under charge them they are miserable. Thats why so many Tesla owners are having poor performance. Hopefully Tesla can retire their electrolyte batteries and move on to solid state.

      • Davidradzieta says:

        tesla forum consensus.

        It Telsa bolded what it tells customer after the fact and put it into pre-sales literature and on the web site, it would save Tesla millions from customers bringing cars in with range issues.

        10% range loss first year is within normal limits.
        15% range loss in second year in within normal limits.
        30% range loss in eight year is within normal limits.

      • Davidradzieta says:

        By the way. My 2012 Leaf turned 9 years old last month. It still easily goes 60 miles per charge. Not bad for a car that originally went 75 miles per charge.

      • Davidradzieta says:

        There is a Tesla Model S70 for sale in Birmingham with 71k miles and 30% battery degradation if you are interested.

  5. Rodri says:

    What a scientific accomplishment the birth of a new battery chemistry. Let’s see its safety as it will have to compete with LFP and, presumably some day, non-flammable solid-state electrolytes.
    BTW, Is LNMO as safe as LFP?

    Just this month LG had to recall its NCM-based home batteries on risk of overheating and fire after five accidents occurred. Personally I rather have LFP inside my home & garage:

    • Davidradzieta says:

      3 Tesla fires in the last 4 weeks. One passenger in Korea burned alive. These gtaphs and charts are showing the GoM readings not the actual battery degradation. Any Tesla owner will tell you the Tesla GOM is bogus. Battery degradation needs to be measured via battery consumptoon compared to actual miles driven. Teslafi is the best source not propaganda charts based on Gom.

    • Davidradzieta says:

      I hope LG gets it figured out. Tesla has ten times as many fires so why are they not recalling a million Teslas. ???

  6. Famlin says:

    Nickel, Ferrous, Aluminum: All 3 are abundantly available element and making a battery using them could be the best. Hope it will hit the market soon. This could help the cobalt-free batteries reduce the gap with cobalt batteries and also reduce the overall battery cost.

  7. antrik says:

    Always good to see more potential candidates: but suggesting that this early-stage research may “soon” join LFMP and LNMO, which are about to show up in products, is utter nonsense…

    As to the actual material: I wonder what advantages it might offer over other nickel-rich cobalt-free chemistries?…

    • Davidradzieta says:

      Another Tesla fire last week. 3 in the last 4 weeks and one passenger in More burned alive.

    • Davidradzieta says:

      LFMP is been around forever. Doesn’t have much charge density.

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