Lithium-ion battery The battery of future
Cost of production of electric vehicles is bound to come down in India with ISRO agreeing to transfer its battery technology for commercial use.
The authorities of the Government of India (GoI) have requested Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to share the technology indigenously developed technology for the production of Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries with public sector industries in India as well as those from private sector, interested in manufacturing Li-ion batteries.
ISRO had earlier developed Li -ion batteries for applications in satellites and the rockets built by them.
The Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre under ISRO has developed indigenous technology to manufacture such highpower batteries useful also for electric automobiles and electric two wheelers and their feasibility tests have been successful.
A number of automobile and battery manufacturers like M/S Mahindra and Mahindra, Renault, Tata Motors, and the like as well as public sector undertakings like Bharat Heavy Electrical Ltd (BHEL) and the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) have expressed their keen interest.
Lithium is a chemical element with the symbol Li and Atomic Number 3. The discovery of lithium is attributed to the Johan A. Arfvedson of Sweden,
who first identified it in 1817 while analysing the mineral Petalite. However, it was made through the electrolysis of lithium chloride, by Sir Humphrey Davy and William Thomas Brande in 1855 only. The first commercial production of lithium took place in Germany in 1923 when Metallgesellschaft AG used electrolysis to treat a molten mixture of lithium and potassium chlorides.
Lithium is a soft, silver-white metal and is the lightest metal as well as lightest solid element. It is highly reactive and flammable. For this reason, it is typically stored in mineral oil. It is used in a number of industrial products in the form of alloys and compounds.
Major sources of lithium
The main rocks used as sources of lithium are: Spodumene – the most abundant and important of the lithium containing ores. It is found in North America, Brazil, USSR, Spain, Africa, and Argentina, Lepidolite, found in Canada and Africa and Petalite found in Africa and Sweden.
According to American Geological Survey, Chile had the largest reserves of lithium by far (7.5 million tonnes). One of the largest reserves of lithium is in the Salar de Uyuni area of Bolivia, which has 5.4 million tonnes. Other major suppliers include Australia, Argentina and China. As of today, there is no worthwhile source of lithium in India.
The production figures for 2015 are Australia 13,400 tonnes, Chile 11,700 Tonnes, Argentina 3,800 Tonnes, etc. The figure for the whole world is 32,500 tonnes.
Lithium is most commonly extracted from spodumene.
An electric battery is a device consisting of one or more cells that convert stored chemical energy into electrical energy. Each cell contains a positive terminal, or cathode, and a negative terminal, or anode. Electrolytes allow ions to move between the electrodes and terminals, which allows current to flow out of the battery to perform work.
A cathode is the metallic electrode through which current flows out in a
polarized electrical device. Conversely, an anode is the electrode in a polarized electrical device through which current flows in from an outside circuit. Cathodes get their name from cations (positively charged ions) and anodes from anions (negatively charged ions).
The credit of using the word "battery" to describe a group electrical device goes to Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States and a versatile genius. In 1748 he described a set of Leyden jars as battery of Leyden Jars by analogy to a battery of cannons. A Leyden jar is a device that "stores" electric charge.
The dry cell or dry battery which cannot be recharged was invented by Carl Gassner of Germany in 1886-87. The first alkaline battery was invented by Lewis Frederick Urry, in 1959. This also cannot be recharged and is discarded after use. Thousands of tons of zinc–carbon and alkaline batteries are discarded every year around the world causing huge environmental pollution.
In 1859, a French physician Gaston Planté invented the first rechargeable battery. It was based on lead and acid, a system that is still used today. It is used in cars, bus and trucks.
Landmarks in development
Pioneering work with the lithium battery began in 1912 under Dr G.N. Lewis, an American physical chemist. Lithium batteries were first proposed by Dr M.S. Whittingham, an English chemist while working at Exxon Research & Engineering Company in the US.
However, primary lithium batteries in which the anode is made from metallic lithium posed serious safety issues. As a result, lithium-ion batteries were developed in which both anode and cathode are made of a material containing lithium ions. An ion is an atom or molecule that has an electric charge.
Dr John Bannister Goodenough a physicist at The University of Texas at Austin is widely credited for the development of the Li-ion rechargeable battery.
A major advantage of a Liion battery is its high energy density. Energy density is the amount of energy that can be stored in a given mass of a substance or system.
This gives the battery a high-power rating while still remaining at a relatively small size. The compact size makes it a popular choice in the mobile telephone industry. In addition to mobiles, they are also a popular choice for electric cars and golf carts.
There is no need to provide special attention to the Li-ion batteries to maintain their performance. Other types of batteries, such as the nickel-based rechargeable batteries require a regular discharge to maintain optimal performance.
The Li-ion battery is quick charging. This is a major reason why they are used in phones, laptop and tablet computers that are in need of the daily charging with regular use. They are commonly used in the aerospace industry.
Most of the batteries lose a certain amount of charge after disconnecting from a power source. But, the Li-ion battery has a discharge rate that is much lower than other types of batteries. They also do not suffer from Memory Effect common in Nickel based rechargeable batteries.
A Li-ion battery has great longevity and continues to give reliable performance over a very long period. Plus, they can receive a regular charge without affecting any difference in its capacity.
However, they are expensive. The process of making the lithium-ion battery is quite long and expensive. On average, this type of battery costs nearly 40 per cent more to produce compared to the nickel based battery.
There are a few disadvantages too. A Li-ion battery it is not the easiest type of battery to transport. The usable lifespan of a Li-ion battery can be shortened if the battery is regularly overcharged.
Working of lithium batteries in automobiles.