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What Does the Future of Lithium Batteries Look Like?

While the world is experiencing an ever-growing movement towards carbon net zero, the lithium battery packs industry is feverishly working in the background to develop lithium technology that is both sustainable and competitive.

While the first-ever lithium battery was created in 1912, it was not until the 1970s and 1980s that lithium-ion battery cells were commercially viable and manufactured in large quantities. The names of Whittingham, Goodenough and Yoshino have become synonymous with the wide-scale adoption of lithium as a safe and effective source of power. Stanley Whittingham pioneered the first working lithium battery during the oil crisis of the 1970s. His work was taken forward to the next step by John Goodenough, who introduced cobalt oxide, therefore making it rechargeable.

Further developments were made by Akira Yoshino, improving the safety and performance of lithium battery packs and thereby making them more commercially viable as a result.

Lithium-Polymer vs. Lithium-Ion

While lithium-ion is considered the first generation of lithium battery technology, device manufacturers today have a much wider choice of lithium-ion versus lithium polymer battery technology.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Lithium-Ion Battery Cells

This tried and tested product has been powering our phones, laptops, and Sony Discmans since the 1990s. They are manufactured using positive and negative electrodes, which are separated by a liquid chemical electrolyte. Cheap to manufacture, a li-ion battery pack has high energy density compared to traditional batteries and so contributed massively to the explosion in personal entertainment gadgets during the 1990s.

However, as anyone who has had a smartphone will know, over time the battery loses its ability to hold its power, which means that as your gadget ages, the battery lasts for an increasingly shorter time period. Battery capacity can decrease with every charge cycle, and even if the gadget is not in use, it can leak power.

As we become more and more reliant on mobile technology, it is important to find a better solution, which is where lithium polymer comes in.

Is Li-Poly Battery Technology the Perfect Answer?

The electrodes in a li-poly battery are separated not by a liquid but by a gel-like chemical electrolyte, which renders it significantly more robust, flexible, and overall safer than their ion cousins.

Because the physical design of the batteries is more versatile, they have been instrumental in the rapid changes in mobile technology over the last couple of decades. In general, li-poly batteries can be smaller, lighter, and used in a variety of different mobile technologies that have been introduced during the first 20 years of the 21st century. However, the downside is that they are significantly more expensive to manufacture and suffer from the same issues as energy retention and life cycle.

Is There a Future Beyond the Lithium Polymer vs. Lithium-Ion Debate?

Does battery technology drive commercial innovation, or is it the innovation that drives the changes in battery technology? This is one of the key arguments behind the future of lithium battery packs. The choice between cost of manufacture, energy density, design versatility and discharge times are all weighed up when considering current options, but where does this leave us in the future and the increasingly demanding expectations of the consumer?

A key issue that will need to be incorporated into the specification process is sustainability.

  • Is the battery recyclable?
  • Is the acquisition of raw materials ethical?
  • Can these requirements be balanced against the drive towards carbon net zero?

With an increasing global demand for lithium batteries not just for smaller personal electronic gadgets but, more importantly, for larger vehicles as the move away from fossil fuels intensifies, it is crucial that the procurement of key raw materials - lithium and cobalt - is carried out in a manner that is ethical and sustainable. Around one-third of the world’s lithium supply comes from the salt flats of Argentina and China. The process uses significant amounts of water.

Working Towards a More Sustainable Battery-Powered Future

As a result, the battery industry is working together to rebalance the demands placed on raw materials on a global level by re-examining every aspect of the infrastructure of lithium battery packs and discovering new and more sustainable ways to produce the same, if not better, results.

Recycling and repurposing are a significant move towards a more sustainable future. The technology already exists to recycle battery technology, and there needs to be a more structured process in place on a global scale to generate a safer and more purpose-driven ‘second hand’ market for lithium battery packs.

YOK Energy is committed to working collaboratively with other manufacturers and its customers to create battery solutions that are sustainable for the upcoming generations. For a commercially viable and environmentally driven solution to powering any device, from the smallest wearable technology to industrial machinery, tell us a little bit more about your requirements, and we will contact you to discuss further.



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