The lithium iron phosphate battery (LiFePO4 battery) or LFP battery (lithium ferrophosphate), is a type of rechargeable battery, specifically a lithium-ion battery, using LiFePO4 as the cathode material, and a graphitic carbon electrode with a metallic backing as the anode. The specific capacity of LiFePO4 is higher than that of the related lithium cobalt oxide (LiCoO2) chemistry, but its energy density is less due to its lower operating voltage. The main drawback of LiFePO4 is its low electrical conductivity. Therefore, all the LiFePO4 cathodes under consideration are actually LiFePO4/C. Because of low cost, low toxicity, well-defined performance, long-term stability, etc. LiFePO4 is finding a number of roles in vehicle use, utility scale stationary applications, and backup power.
LiFePO4 is a natural mineral of the olivine family (triphylite). Its use as a battery electrode was first described in published literature by Akshaya Padhi and coworkers of John B. Goodenough's research group at the University of Texas in 1996, as a cathode material for rechargeable lithium batteries. Because of its low cost, non-toxicity, the natural abundance of iron, its excellent thermal stability, safety characteristics, electrochemical performance, and specific capacity (170 mA·h/g, or 610 C/g) it has gained considerable market acceptance.
The chief barrier to commercialization was its intrinsically low electrical conductivity. This problem was overcome by reducing the particle size, coating the LiFePO4 particles with conductive materials such as carbon nanotubes, or both. This approach was developed by Michel Armand and his coworkers. Another approach by Yet Ming Chiang's group consisted of doping LFP with cations of materials such as aluminium, niobium, and zirconium. Products are now in mass production and are used in industrial products by major corporations including Black and Decker's DeWalt brand, the Fisker Karma, Daimler AG, Cessna and BAE Systems.
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MIT introduced a new coating that allows the ions to move more easily within the battery. The "Beltway Battery" utilizes a bypass system that allows the lithium ions to enter and leave the electrodes at a speed great enough to fully charge a battery in under a minute. The scientists discovered that by coating lithium iron phosphate particles in a glassy material called lithium pyrophosphate, ions bypass the channels and move faster than in other batteries. Rechargeable batteries store and discharge energy as charged atoms (ions) are moved between two electrodes, the anode and the cathode. Their charge and discharge rate are restricted by the speed with which these ions move. Such technology could reduce the weight and size of the batteries. A small prototype battery cell has been developed that can fully charge in 10 to 20 seconds, compared with six minutes for standard battery cells.
Negative electrodes (anode, on discharge) made of petroleum coke were used in early lithium-ion batteries; later types used natural or synthetic graphite.