The Misunderstood Power of Lithium-Ion

on November 20, 2020

The term “lithium-ion” is everywhere these days, but most people don’t understand what it means other than it’s in our batteries. It’s easy to equate that lithium-ion technology powers cars, toys, and mobile phones, but the chemistries in each are vastly different. There are seven different commercially available lithium-ion chemistry types, each with its own unique properties and uses.

Society now relies on lithium-ion to power more of our lives than ever before, but there’s still fear and confusion surrounding the technology and many lingering questions. What are the different types of lithium-ion chemistries? What are they used for? Is it safe?

A battery by any other name

Using “lithium-ion” to describe a battery is similar to using “fuel” to describe combustible gas and liquids. “Fuel” could describe gasoline, diesel, natural gas, propane, and other similar gases or liquids. However, most of us understand that you wouldn’t put diesel in a gasoline engine. Just as each oil-based fuel suits a different application, each lithium-ion chemical formula suits a different application.

Unlike fuels, though, there’s a lack of widespread understanding of the types of lithium-ion chemistries. This lack of knowledge makes it challenging for consumers to make informed buying decisions and increases their confusion and mystery.

Batteries are traditionally named based on their chemistry, like the lead-acid batteries that start our cars or the zinc batteries that power our flashlights. But, when the first lithium-ion chemistry came to market in the 1990s, the makers named it after the unique physics the battery operates on rather than the past’s traditional chemical nomenclatures.

The seven types of lithium-ion

There are seven basic types of lithium batteries on the market today: Lithium Iron Phosphate, Nickel Manganese Cobalt, Nickel Cobalt Aluminum, Lithium Titanium Oxide, Lithium Manganese Oxide, Lithium Cobalt Oxide, and Lithium Nickel Cobalt Oxide.

Each unique chemical makeup results in distinctive properties and ideal uses. These include energy density, intake and energy release speeds, how well they hold energy over time, the stability of their chemical makeup, and much more.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsThe Misunderstood Power of Lithium-Ion