Nickel (Ni) has long been widely used in batteries, most commonly in nickel cadmium (NiCd) and in the longer-lasting nickel metal hydride (NiMH) rechargeable batteries, which came to the fore in the 1980s. Their adoption in power tools and early digital cameras revealed the potential for portable devices, changing expectations of how we work and live. The mid-1990s saw the first significant use of NiMH batteries in vehicles in the Toyota Prius. Around the same time, the first commercial applications for Li-ion batteries emerged, initially in camcorders and eventually finding their way into smartphones, laptops and the numerous other portable devices we now take for granted.
The major advantage of using nickel in batteries is that it helps deliver higher energy density and greater storage capacity at a lower cost. Further advances in nickel-containing battery technology mean it is set for an increasing role in energy storage systems, helping make the cost of each kWh of battery storage more competitive. It is making energy production from intermittent renewable energy sources such as wind and solar replace fossil fuels more viable.
Nickel is an essential component for the cathodes of many secondary battery designs.
CobaltCobalt (Co) is mostly retrieved as a byproduct from copper and nickel production. Cobalt has a very high cost, so battery manufacturers are seeking alternatives, but currently cobalt cannot be entirely eliminated in lithium-ion batteries. Roughly 50% of the cobalt produced globally is found in rechargeable batteries.
Cobalt’s unique properties make it essential for the thermal stability and resistance to the structure and functioning of lithium-ion batteries and the integrity of the cathode. Cobalt also plays a decisive role to achieve high energy densities within the lithium-ion batteries.
The electrolyte plays a key role in transporting the positive lithium ions between the cathode and anode. High purity electrolytes are a core component of lithium-ion batteries. The most commonly used electrolyte is comprised of lithium salt, such as LiPF6 in an organic solution.There are many other kinds of materials that are used as electrolytes. All of them are based on a lithium-containing material that allows for the easy diffusion of lithium.
Graphite is currently used as the active anode material in about 90 % of all lithium-ion batteries. The remaining 10% usually come from amorphous carbon, lithium titanate or silicon. Therefore, graphite dominates the market for anode materials. The high surface area and layered crystal structure which are features of graphite makes it suitable for use as an anode material into which the lithium ions are intercalated, i.e. “sandwiched” between layers of graphite.
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