Back to Basics with Lithium-Ion Batteries

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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

back to basics

Failing Lithium Battery: Dennis van Zuijlekom: CC 2.0

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

back to basics

Overcharge Protection Research: Argonne: Public Domain

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.


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Preview Image: Comparison of Three Lithium-Ion Batteries


About Author


I tripped over a shrinking bank balance and fell into the writing gig unintentionally. This was after I escaped the corporate world and searched in vain for ways to become rich on the internet by doing nothing. Despite the fact that writing is no recipe for wealth, I rather enjoy it. I will not deny I am obsessed with it when I have the time. My base is Umtentweni in South Africa on the Kwazulu-Natal South Coast. I work from home where I ponder on the future of the planet, and what lies beyond in the great hereafter. Sometimes I step out of my computer into the silent riverine forests, and empty golden beaches for which the area is renowned. Richard Farrell

1 Comment

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    Very useful guide. Thanks for introducing batteries basics. Your article on Lithium-Ion Batteries is super helpful for a newbie like me. I have so much to learn about Lithium-Ion Batteries. Thank you again for your clear concept on Lithium-Ion Batteries!

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