Li-ion batteries are rechargeable batteries that contain lithium ions. They’re used in everything from cell phones to cars. But how do they work?
Li-ion batteries use an intercalation process to store energy. This process involves lithium ions moving between the cathode and anode inside the battery. When charging, the ions move from the anode to the cathode, and when discharging, they move in the opposite direction.
But that’s just a brief overview. Let’s look at everything in more detail.
In this post we'll cover:
- 1 What is a Lithium-Ion Battery?
- 2 The Fascinating History of the Lithium-Ion Battery
- 3 The Science Behind 18650 Lithium-Ion Cells
- 4 Types of Lithium-Ion Cells
- 5 What are Lithium-Ion Batteries Used For?
- 6 What You Need to Know About Lithium-Ion Battery Performance
- 7 What’s the Deal with Lithium-Ion Battery Lifespan?
- 8 The Dangers of Lithium-Ion Batteries
- 9 The Environmental Impact of Lithium-Ion Batteries
- 10 The Impact of Lithium Extraction on Human Rights
- 11 The Impact of Lithium Extraction on Human Rights
- 12 Differences
- 13 FAQ
- 14 Conclusion
What is a Lithium-Ion Battery?
Lithium-ion batteries are everywhere these days! They power our phones, laptops, electric vehicles, and more. But what exactly are they? Let’s take a closer look!
Lithium-ion batteries are made up of one or more cells, a protective circuit board, and a few other components:
- Electrodes: The positively and negatively charged ends of a cell. Attached to the current collectors.
- Anode: The negative electrode.
- Electrolyte: A liquid or gel that conducts electricity.
- Current collectors: Conductive foils at each electrode of the battery that are connected to the terminals of the cell. These terminals transmit the electric current between the battery, the device, and the energy source that powers the battery.
- Separator: A porous polymeric film that separates the electrodes while enabling the exchange of lithium ions from one side to the other.
How it Works
When you’re using a device powered by a lithium-ion battery, lithium ions are moving around inside the battery between the anode and cathode. At the same time, electrons are moving around in the external circuit. This movement of ions and electrons is what creates the electrical current that powers your device.
When the battery is discharging, the anode releases lithium ions to the cathode, generating a flow of electrons that helps to power your device. When the battery is charging, the opposite happens: lithium ions are released by the cathode and received by the anode.
Where Can You Find Them?
Lithium-ion batteries are everywhere these days! You can find them in phones, laptops, electric vehicles, and more. So next time you’re using one of your favorite devices, just remember that it’s powered by a lithium-ion battery!
The Fascinating History of the Lithium-Ion Battery
NASA’s Early Attempts
Back in the ’60s, NASA was already trying to make a rechargeable Li-ion battery. They developed a CuF2/Li battery, but it didn’t quite work out.
M. Stanley Whittingham’s Breakthrough
In 1974, British chemist M. Stanley Whittingham made a breakthrough when he used titanium disulfide (TiS2) as a cathode material. This had a layered structure that could take in lithium ions without changing its crystal structure. Exxon tried to commercialize the battery, but it was too expensive and complex. Plus, it was prone to catching fire due to the presence of metallic lithium in the cells.
Getting started with your own stop motion storyboards
Subscribe to our newsletter and get your free download with three storyboards. Get started with bringing your stories alive!
We'll only use your email address for our newsletter and respect your privacy
Godshall, Mizushima, and Goodenough
In 1980, Ned A. Godshall et al. and Koichi Mizushima and John B. Goodenough replaced TiS2 with lithium cobalt oxide (LiCoO2, or LCO). This had a similar layered structure, but with a higher voltage and more stability in air.
Rachid Yazami’s Invention
That same year, Rachid Yazami demonstrated the reversible electrochemical intercalation of lithium in graphite and invented the lithium graphite electrode (anode).
The Problem of Flammability
The problem of flammability persisted, so lithium metal anodes were abandoned. The eventual solution was to use an intercalation anode, similar to that used for the cathode, which prevented the formation of lithium metal during battery charging.
In 1987, Akira Yoshino patented what would become the first commercial Li-ion battery using an anode of “soft carbon” (a charcoal-like material) along with Goodenough’s LCO cathode and a carbonate ester-based electrolyte.
In 1991, Sony began producing and selling the world’s first rechargeable lithium-ion batteries using Yoshino’s design.
The Nobel Prize
In 2012, John B. Goodenough, Rachid Yazami, and Akira Yoshino received the 2012 IEEE Medal for Environmental and Safety Technologies for developing the lithium-ion battery. Then, in 2019, Goodenough, Whittingham, and Yoshino were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the same thing.
The Global Production Capacity
In 2010, the global production capacity of Li-ion batteries was 20 gigawatt-hours. By 2016, it had grown to 28 GWh, with 16.4 GWh in China. In 2020, the global production capacity was 767 GWh, with China accounting for 75%. In 2021, it’s estimated to be between 200 and 600 GWh, and predictions for 2023 range from 400 to 1,100 GWh.
The Science Behind 18650 Lithium-Ion Cells
What is an 18650 Cell?
If you’ve ever heard of a laptop battery or an electric vehicle, chances are you’ve heard of an 18650 cell. This type of lithium-ion cell is cylindrical in shape and is used in a variety of applications.
What’s Inside an 18650 Cell?
An 18650 cell is made up of several components, all of which work together to power your device:
- The negative electrode is usually made of graphite, a form of carbon.
- The positive electrode is usually made of a metal oxide.
- The electrolyte is a lithium salt in an organic solvent.
- A separator prevents the anode and cathode from shorting.
- A current collector is a piece of metal that separates the external electronics from the anode and cathode.
What Does an 18650 Cell Do?
An 18650 cell is responsible for powering your device. It does this by creating a chemical reaction between the anode and cathode, which produces electrons that flow through the external circuit. The electrolyte helps to facilitate this reaction, while the current collector ensures that the electrons don’t short circuit.
The Future of 18650 Cells
The demand for batteries is ever-increasing, so researchers are constantly looking for ways to improve the energy density, operating temperature, safety, durability, charging time, and cost of 18650 cells. This includes experimenting with new materials, like graphene, and exploring alternative electrode structures.
So, the next time you’re using your laptop or electric vehicle, take a moment to appreciate the science behind the 18650 cell!
Types of Lithium-Ion Cells
These are the most common type of lithium-ion cells, and they’re found in most e-bikes and electric vehicle batteries. They come in a variety of standard sizes and have a solid body without any terminals.
These lithium-ion cells are bigger than the small cylindrical ones, and they have large threaded terminals.
Flat or Pouch
These are the soft, flat cells that you’ll find in cell phones and newer laptops. They’re also known as lithium-ion polymer batteries.
Rigid Plastic Case
These cells come with large threaded terminals and are usually used in electric vehicle traction packs.
Cylindrical cells are made in a characteristic “swiss roll” manner, which is also known as a “jelly roll” in the US. This means it’s a single long “sandwich” of the positive electrode, separator, negative electrode, and separator rolled into a single spool. Jelly rolls have the advantage of being produced faster than cells with stacked electrodes.
Pouch cells have the highest gravimetric energy density, but they need an external means of containment to prevent expansion when their state of charge (SOC) level is high.
Flow batteries are a relatively new type of lithium-ion battery that suspend the cathode or anode material in an aqueous or organic solution.
The Smallest Li-ion Cell
In 2014, Panasonic created the smallest Li-ion cell. It’s pin shaped and has a diameter of 3.5mm and a weight of 0.6g. It’s similar to ordinary lithium batteries and is usually designated with a “LiR” prefix.
Battery packs are made up of multiple connected lithium-ion cells and are used to power larger devices, such as electric cars. They contain temperature sensors, voltage regulator circuits, voltage taps, and charge-state monitors to minimize safety risks.
What are Lithium-Ion Batteries Used For?
Lithium-ion batteries are the go-to power source for all your favorite gadgets. From your trusty cell phone to your laptop, digital camera, and electric cigarettes, these batteries keep your tech running.
If you’re a DIYer, you know that lithium-ion batteries are the way to go. Cordless drills, sanders, saws, and even garden equipment like whipper-snippers and hedge trimmers all rely on these batteries.
Electric cars, hybrid vehicles, electric motorcycles and scooters, electric bicycles, personal transporters, and advanced electric wheelchairs all use lithium-ion batteries to get around. And let’s not forget about radio-controlled models, model aircraft, and even the Mars Curiosity rover!
Lithium-ion batteries are also used as backup power in telecommunications applications. Plus, they’re being discussed as a potential option for grid energy storage, although they’re not quite cost-competitive yet.
What You Need to Know About Lithium-Ion Battery Performance
When it comes to lithium-ion batteries, you’re looking at some serious energy density! We’re talking 100-250 W·h/kg (360-900 kJ/kg) and 250-680 W·h/L (900-2230 J/cm3). That’s enough power to light up a small city!
Lithium-ion batteries have higher open-circuit voltage than other types of batteries, like lead–acid, nickel–metal hydride, and nickel-cadmium.
Internal resistance increases with both cycling and age, but this depends on the voltage and temperature the batteries are stored at. This means that the voltage at the terminals drops under load, reducing the maximum current draw.
Gone are the days when lithium-ion batteries took two hours or more to charge. Nowadays, you can get a full charge in 45 minutes or less! In 2015, researchers even demonstrated a 600 mAh capacity battery charged to 68 percent capacity in two minutes and a 3,000 mAh battery charged to 48 percent capacity in five minutes.
Lithium-ion batteries have come a long way since 1991. Prices have dropped 97% and energy density has more than tripled. Differently sized cells with the same chemistry can also have different energy densities, so you can get more bang for your buck.
What’s the Deal with Lithium-Ion Battery Lifespan?
When it comes to lithium-ion batteries, the lifespan is usually measured in terms of the number of full charge-discharge cycles it takes to reach a certain threshold. This threshold is usually defined as a capacity loss or an impedance rise. Manufacturers usually use the term “cycle life” to describe the lifespan of a battery in terms of the number of cycles it takes to reach 80% of its rated capacity.
Storing lithium-ion batteries in a charged state also reduces their capacity and increases the cell resistance. This is mainly because of the continuous growth of the solid electrolyte interface on the anode. The whole life cycle of a battery, including both the cycle and inactive storage operations, is referred to as the calendar life.
Factors Affecting Battery Cycle Life
The cycle life of a battery is affected by several factors, such as:
- Discharge current
- Charge current
- State of charge ranges (depth of discharge)
In real-world applications, such as smartphones, laptops and electric cars, batteries are not always fully charged and discharged. This is why defining battery life in terms of full discharge cycles can be misleading. To avoid this confusion, researchers sometimes use cumulative discharge, which is the total amount of charge (Ah) delivered by the battery during its entire life or equivalent full cycles.
Batteries degrade gradually over their lifespan, leading to reduced capacity and, in some cases, lower operating cell voltage. This is due to a variety of chemical and mechanical changes to the electrodes. Degradation is strongly temperature-dependent, and high charge levels also hasten capacity loss.
Some of the most common degradation processes include:
- Reduction of the organic carbonate electrolyte at the anode, which results in the growth of Solid Electrolyte Interface (SEI). This causes an increase in ohmic impedance and a reduction in cyclable Ah charge.
- Lithium metal plating, which also leads to a loss of lithium inventory (cyclable Ah charge) and internal short-circuiting.
- Loss of the (negative or positive) electroactive materials due to dissolution, cracking, exfoliation, detachment or even regular volume change during cycling. This shows up as both charge and power fade (increased resistance).
- Corrosion/dissolution of the negative copper current collector at low cell voltages.
- Degradation of the PVDF binder, which can cause the detachment of the electroactive materials.
So, if you’re looking for a battery that will last, make sure to keep an eye on all the factors that can affect its cycle life!
The Dangers of Lithium-Ion Batteries
What Are Lithium-Ion Batteries?
Lithium-ion batteries are the powerhouses of our modern world. They’re found in everything from smartphones to electric cars. But, like all powerful things, they come with a few risks.
What Are the Risks?
Lithium-ion batteries contain a flammable electrolyte and can become pressurized if damaged. This means that if a battery is charged too quickly, it can cause a short circuit and lead to explosions and fires.
Here are some of the ways lithium-ion batteries can become hazardous:
- Thermal abuse: Poor cooling or external fire
- Electrical abuse: Overcharge or external short circuit
- Mechanical abuse: Penetration or crash
- Internal short circuit: Manufacturing flaws or aging
What Can Be Done?
Testing standards for lithium-ion batteries are more stringent than those for acid-electrolyte batteries. Shipping limitations have also been imposed by safety regulators.
In some cases, companies have had to recall products due to battery-related issues, like the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 recall in 2016.
Research projects are underway to develop non-flammable electrolytes to reduce fire hazards.
If lithium-ion batteries are damaged, crushed, or subjected to a higher electrical load without overcharge protection, then problems can arise. Short-circuiting a battery can cause it to overheat and possibly catch fire.
The Bottom Line
Lithium-ion batteries are powerful and have revolutionized our world, but they come with some risks. It’s important to be aware of these risks and take steps to reduce them.
The Environmental Impact of Lithium-Ion Batteries
What are Lithium-Ion Batteries?
Lithium-Ion batteries are the power source for many of our everyday devices, from phones and laptops to electric cars. They’re made up of lithium, nickel, and cobalt, and are known for their high energy density and long life.
What are the Environmental Impacts?
The production of Lithium-Ion batteries can have a serious environmental impact, including:
- Extraction of lithium, nickel, and cobalt can be hazardous to aquatic life, leading to water pollution and respiratory problems.
- Mining byproducts can cause ecosystem degradation and landscape damage.
- Unsustainable water consumption in arid regions.
- Massive byproduct generation of lithium extraction.
- Global warming potential of lithium-ion batteries manufacturing.
What Can We Do?
We can help reduce the environmental impact of Lithium-Ion batteries by:
- Recycling lithium-ion batteries to reduce the carbon footprint of the production.
- Re-using batteries instead of recycling them.
- Storing used batteries safely to reduce risks.
- Using pyrometallurgical and hydrometallurgical methods to separate the components of the battery.
- Refining slag from the recycling process to use in the cement industry.
The Impact of Lithium Extraction on Human Rights
Dangers to Local People
Extracting raw materials for lithium ion batteries can be dangerous to local populations, especially indigenous folks. Cobalt from the Democratic Republic of the Congo is often mined with little safety precautions, leading to injuries and deaths. Pollution from these mines has exposed people to toxic chemicals that can cause birth defects and breathing difficulties. It’s also been reported that child labor is used in these mines.
Lack of Free Prior and Informed Consent
A study in Argentina found that the state may not have protected indigenous peoples’ right to free prior and informed consent, and that extraction companies controlled community access to information and set the terms for discussion of the projects and benefit sharing.
Protests and Lawsuits
The development of the Thacker Pass lithium mine in Nevada has been met with protests and lawsuits from several indigenous tribes who say they weren’t given free prior and informed consent and that the project threatens cultural and sacred sites. People have also expressed concerns that the project will create risks to indigenous women. Protestors have been occupying the site since January 2021.
The Impact of Lithium Extraction on Human Rights
Dangers to Local People
Extracting raw materials for lithium ion batteries can be a real bummer for local populations, especially indigenous folks. Cobalt from the Democratic Republic of the Congo is often mined with little safety precautions, leading to injuries and deaths. Pollution from these mines has exposed people to toxic chemicals that can cause birth defects and breathing difficulties. It’s also been reported that child labor is used in these mines. Yikes!
Lack of Free Prior and Informed Consent
A study in Argentina found that the state may not have given indigenous peoples the right to free prior and informed consent, and that extraction companies controlled community access to information and set the terms for discussion of the projects and benefit sharing. Not cool.
Protests and Lawsuits
The development of the Thacker Pass lithium mine in Nevada has been met with protests and lawsuits from several indigenous tribes who say they weren’t given free prior and informed consent and that the project threatens cultural and sacred sites. People have also expressed concerns that the project will create risks to indigenous women. Protestors have been occupying the site since January 2021, and it doesn’t look like they’re planning on leaving anytime soon.
Li-Ion Batteries Vs Lipo
When it comes to Li-ion vs LiPo batteries, it’s a battle of the titans. Li-ion batteries are incredibly efficient, packing a ton of energy into a tiny package. But, they can be unstable and dangerous if the barrier between the positive and negative electrodes is breached. On the other hand, LiPo batteries are much safer, as they don’t suffer from the same risk of combustion. They also don’t suffer from the ‘memory effect’ that Li-ion batteries do, meaning they can be recharged more times without losing their capacity. Plus, they have a longer lifespan than Li-ion batteries, so you don’t have to worry about replacing them as often. So, if you’re looking for a battery that’s safe, reliable, and long-lasting, LiPo is the way to go!
Li-Ion Batteries Vs Lead Acid
Lead acid batteries are cheaper than lithium-ion batteries, but they don’t perform as well. Lead acid batteries can take up to 10 hours to charge, while lithium ion batteries can charge in as little as a few minutes. That’s because lithium ion batteries can accept a faster rate of current, charging quicker than lead acid batteries. So if you’re looking for a battery that charges quickly and efficiently, lithium ion is the way to go. But if you’re on a budget, lead acid is the more affordable option.
Is Li-ion battery the same as lithium?
No, Li-ion batteries and lithium batteries are not the same! Lithium batteries are primary cells, meaning they’re not rechargeable. So, once you use them, they’re done. On the other hand, Li-ion batteries are secondary cells, meaning they can be recharged and used again and again. Plus, Li-ion batteries are more expensive and take longer to make than lithium batteries. So, if you’re looking for a battery that can be recharged, Li-ion is the way to go. But if you want something that’s cheaper and lasts longer, lithium is your best bet.
Do you need a special charger for lithium batteries?
No, you don’t need a special charger for lithium batteries! With iTechworld lithium batteries, you don’t have to upgrade your whole charging system and spend extra cash. All you need is your existing lead acid charger and you’re good to go. Our lithium batteries have a special Battery Management System (BMS) that ensures your battery charges correctly with your existing charger.
The only charger we don’t recommend using is one designed for calcium batteries. That’s because the voltage input is usually higher than what’s recommended for lithium deep cycle batteries. But don’t worry, if you do accidentally use a calcium charger, the BMS will detect the high voltage and go into safe mode, protecting your battery from any damage. So don’t break the bank buying a special charger – just use your existing one and you’ll be set!
How long is the life of a lithium-ion battery?
Lithium-ion batteries are the power behind your everyday gadgets. But how long do they last? Well, the average lithium-ion battery should last between 300 and 500 charge/discharge cycles. That’s like charging your phone once a day for over a year! Plus, you don’t have to worry about memory issues like you used to. Just keep your battery topped off and cool and you’ll be good to go. So, if you take good care of it, your lithium-ion battery should last you a good while.
What is the major disadvantage of Li-ion battery?
The major downside of Li-ion batteries is their cost. They’re around 40% more expensive than Ni-Cd, so if you’re on a budget, you might want to look elsewhere. Plus, they’re prone to aging, meaning they can lose capacity and fail after a few years. Ain’t nobody got time for that! So if you’re gonna invest in Li-ion, make sure you do your research and get the best bang for your buck.
In conclusion, Li-ion batteries are a revolutionary technology that powers our everyday devices, from mobile phones to electric vehicles. With the right knowledge, these batteries can be used safely and efficiently, so don’t be afraid to take the plunge and explore the world of Li-ion batteries!
Hi, I'm Kim, a mom and a stop-motion enthusiast with a background in media creation and web development. I've got a huge passion for drawing and animation, and now I'm diving headfirst into the stop-motion world. With my blog, I'm sharing my learnings with you guys.