Batteries work by exchanging units of energy we call ions between their electrodes. When they hold full charge, all the ions (at least in theory) are on the positive electrode. When they are flat, all the ions are nominally on the negative one. For this to happen, an energy-consuming device must create a circuit between the terminals on the electrodes, although this is getting back to basics and a high level statement. When we recharge a flat battery we return the ions to where they were before.
A Lithium-Ion Battery, Getting Back to Basics Again
We stress that this is a very high-level summary to make it easier for our readers to follow the lithium battery research we publish. Lithium-ion batteries move lithium ions from the negative to the positive electrode during discharging. And in the opposite direction when charging again.
Lithium is the lightest metal, and the lightest solid element. It is unstable in the presence of air, and catches fire easily in uncontrolled circumstances. Much lithium battery research is back to basics stuff. Scientists are still investigating ways to control its nuclear instability, while tapping its potential.
How Lithium Batteries Work at a High Level
Most lithium batteries use positive electrodes of compounded lithium-ion-phosphate. An electrolyte controls how the lithium ions move to the far side of the battery, and back again. The negative electrode is usually carbon graphite.
Lithium-ion batteries are the commonest storage devices for portable electronics, and are taking over the electric vehicle, and energy storage markets. However, chemistry, performance, cost and safety characteristics vary across the various lithium battery sectors. Lithium batteries also pose unique, unsolved safety hazards.
That said, lithium batteries’ greatest challenge is their core constituents are non-renewable. Moreover, they rely on cobalt to increase their density, which merchants may source from regions where child labor is still rife. It could be said that western governments are tolerating this, on behalf of a better life for their own citizens.
Preview Image: Comparison of Three Lithium-Ion Batteries