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Everyday things that we use, such as laptops, cellphones, bicycles, and vehicles, are powered by electricity. Increasing battery performance has a significant impact on how useful these tools are.

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In light of this, lithium-ion batteries have gained popularity recently. Under the guidance of Ryoji Kanno, an Institute Professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology who has over 30 years of experience in enhancing battery performance, this series of articles examines lithium-ion batteries, covering topics from their definition to the current state of research into the next-generation lithium-ion batteries, which are solid-state batteries. This series has five parts. The features of lithium-ion batteries, their methods of producing power, and their distinctions from lead-acid batteries are covered in Part 1.

1. What are batteries made of lithium-ion?

Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are found in the computers and smartphones that we use on a daily basis. Over the course of more than 200 years, batteries have changed since the invention of the battery prototype at the end of the 18th century. Among the most recent battery types developed throughout this progression are lithium-ion batteries.

Features of batteries made of lithium-ion

Primary batteries, like dry cell batteries, can only be used once. On the other hand, secondary batteries may be recharged and used again. Secondary batteries that can be recharged are lithium-ion batteries. They can be manufactured lighter and smaller than other battery kinds, and they have a high capacity for energy storage.

2. How energy is generated by lithium-ion batteries?

Other than lithium-ion batteries, there are other kinds of batteries as well, but they all work on the same fundamental principle to generate power.

Batteries consist of a metal positive electrode (cathode) and a negative electrode (anode) loaded with an electrolyte material that conducts ions-borne electricity. The electrolyte dissolves the metal electrodes and splits them into ions and electrons. Electricity is produced by the movement of electrons from the anode to the cathode, which is known as an electric current. In secondary cells, electrons are charged at the anode prior to usage of the battery, and during battery use, the stored electrons migrate to the cathode to create power.

The cathode of lithium-ion batteries is a metal compound that has had lithium pre-implanted in it. The anode is made of carbon, which has the ability to store lithium. Unlike traditional batteries, this arrangement produces electricity without dissolving the electrodes in an electrolyte. This prevents the battery from degrading further and increases the amount of power that can be stored. It also makes it possible for the battery to be charged and discharged more frequently. Furthermore, lithium’s compact size and light weight allow for a number of benefits, including the development of lighter and smaller batteries.

3. Do lithium-ion batteries come in several varieties?

Different types of lithium-ion batteries can be distinguished based on the metal that is utilized for the cathode. Cobalt was the first metal utilized as the cathode in lithium-ion batteries. But like lithium, cobalt is a rare metal with a limited yield, which means that producing it is expensive. Currently, low-cost, environmentally friendly materials with little impact include manganese, nickel, iron, and so on. Since every material utilized produces a distinct kind of lithium-ion battery, let’s examine each one’s features individually.

Lithium-ion cobalt batteries

The cathode is made of lithium cobalt oxide. Due to the relative ease of synthesis and handling of lithium cobalt oxide, cobalt lithium-ion batteries were the first to be made in large quantities. Nevertheless, cobalt is not frequently utilized in vehicle parts as it is a costly and uncommon metal.

Lithium-ion manganese batteries

For the cathode, lithium manganese oxide is utilized. In addition to having the benefit of being inexpensive to build, manganese lithium-ion batteries may yield voltages equivalent to those of cobalt lithium-ion batteries. The drawback is that when charging and discharging, manganese may dissolve into the electrolyte and reduce battery life.

Batteries using lithium iron phosphate

For the cathode, lithium iron phosphate is utilized. Because they employ iron as a basic material instead of manganese lithium-ion batteries, lithium iron phosphate batteries have the benefits of being extremely safe, having a structure that does not break down easily even when heat is created within, and being less expensive to manufacture. They do, however, have a lower voltage than conventional lithium-ion batteries.

Lithium-ion batteries in tandem

These batteries are constructed of cobalt, nickel, and manganese in order to minimize the quantity of cobalt needed. These days, a greater amount of nickel is present in many of these batteries. Their production cost is lower even if their voltage is somewhat lower than that of lithium-ion batteries made of cobalt and manganese. Nevertheless, there are also issues with employing cobalt, nickel, and manganese as useful materials, such low stability and difficulties synthesizing each one.