There is no article for this much battery | technology

An employee of a US battery plant (Microvast) tests lithium-ion units at the plant's finish line.
An employee of a US battery plant (Microvast) tests lithium-ion units at the plant’s finish line.Picture alliance (dpa/picture alliance via Getty I)

In a typical home or work environment, there are ten batteries. Mobile phones, watches, laptops, tablets, consoles, home appliances, gadgets, speakers, bicycles, scooters… All devices are based on the same technology: lithium-ion cell batteries. However, these batteries are expensive, have a limited capacity, and lose effectiveness over time. The reasons for its scarcity are due to the fact that the reserves of its main chemical element are insufficient and six countries (China, Australia, Congo, Chile, South Africa and Indonesia) monopolize the production of this element and other necessary resources, such as cobalt, vanadium, molybdenum, nickel, copper, graphite, manganese and others. Electric vehicle outages and the need to store energy generated from intermittent renewable sources exacerbate the problem. There is no material for that much battery. A study by the European Commission’s Joint Research Center (JRC) looks at possible solutions.

According to the International Monetary Fund, the increase in consumption up to 2050 will cause the demand for battery materials to be between 30% and 40% greater than the supply. In this sense, warns the Basque research center CIC energiGUNE, a European standard in the field of batteries: “It is necessary to make joint and quick decisions”.

Zero emissions policies are added to regular home and business use. In this sense, in seven years there will be 50 million electric vehicles in Europe, and by 2050 almost all of the 270 million units that will make up the EU vehicle fleet must be electric. Electric mobility is the main driver of battery demand, but it is not the only one. “Currently, electric mobility is driving the battery market demand, but the demand for stationary devices should not be underestimated, to avoid tensions in the industry. [que permitirá el almacenamiento de electricidad procedente de fuentes de energía renovables intermitentes, como la eólica y la solar, o complementar la capacidad de las pilas existentes]”, warns Johan Soderboom, Head of Intelligent Grids (smartgrids) and Storage Innoenergy in the last BatSum23 meeting. EU projections indicate that vehicles will require 1.5 terawatt-hours (one and a half billion watts) in two decades and stationary batteries between 80 and 160 GWh.

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Söderbom’s warning is supported by the JRC, which advised: “Prices for stationary systems are much higher per kilowatt-hour of energy stored than for electric vehicle batteries because of the additional costs of system elements.” The solution, according to the European Research Center, is to invest in the development and production of batteries such as lithium-phosphate (LFP), sodium (sodium ion) or redox reaction flow (redox) without vanadium. .

These developments seek to reduce dependence on critical raw materials from existing systems. More than 80% of the world’s lithium comes from Chile, Australia and China, while more than 60% of the cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. But they are not the only lines. explains Robert Domenko, researcher at the University of Ljubljana (Slovenia) and steering member of the European initiative Battery 2030+.

Two workers, at a lithium mine in Atacama (Chile) last August.
Two workers, at a lithium mine in Atacama (Chile) last August.John Moore (Getty Images)

The JRC report notes that lithium-ion-based technologies will continue to maintain market dominance in the coming years and points out the following developments, with their advantages and disadvantages, as well as alternatives.

Lithium-ferrophosphate (LFP). It is a cheaper, more durable and safer technology that does not contain cobalt and nickel, which are expensive materials. It is gaining ground in mobile and stationary applications and will grow in importance in the future, although its energy density (ratio of storage capacity to volume it occupies) is lower compared to nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMC) and nickel-cobalt-aluminum (NCA) groups. Its significant drawback is its low value in the recycling chain and limited manufacturing capabilities in the European Union.

Nickel, manganese, cobalt (NMC). It is an expensive battery that has been modified so that the last item is not very relevant. Its main advantage is its high recycling value, but it is also very little found in the European production chain. Variants with a lower proportion of cobalt and nickel are widely used in the automotive industry.

Nickel, cobalt, and aluminium (NCA). This development, which is widely used by Tesla, competes with previous technologies in EV applications, but results in shorter NMC life and lower thermal stability. European production is very limited, almost zero, despite its high recycling value.

Lithium-titanium (LTO). Its components are expensive and have low energy density, but they last longer, are safe, have a high capacity for rapid charging, and are effective in high temperature conditions or for tasks that require a long time without recharging. Europe produces it.


Sodium ion. For Johan Söderbaum, one of the keys to dispensing with lithium is the “promising development of sodium-ion technology”. According to JRC, this is cheaper, safer, and does not require basic raw materials. However, it has lower performance than conventional lithium-ion batteries. Sodium and sulfur correct these limitations by increasing energy and energy density, useful life and storage capacity, which is where much research is focused.

Oxidation and reduction. Most redox flow (redox reaction) batteries rely on vanadium dissolved in sulfuric acid, which is corrosive and toxic. “Vanadium has many strengths: it’s cheap and stable. But if you have a leak from one of these batteries, it’s not pretty. Tanks have to be designed to be very durable,” Eduardo Sanchez, researcher at CIC energiGUNE explains to the European scientific journal horizon.

The main components of this technology are two liquids, one positively charged and one negatively charged, which, when the battery is in use, are pumped into a chamber where they are separated by a permeable membrane and exchange electrons to form a current. Current research aims to find chemical combinations with cheap, safe and unnecessary materials, such as brines in water that store carbon ions, that could be a solution to seasonal energy storage.

solid state. Conventional lithium-ion batteries have three main components: two solid electrodes (anode and cathode) and one liquid (electrolyte). When a battery is in use, electrons flow from the positive electrode to the negative electrode to power any device. Positive lithium ions diffuse through the electrolyte, attracted by the negative charge on the negative electrode. When the battery is charged, the process reverses. The European ASTRABAT project aims to replace this liquid electrolyte with a solid (eg ceramic material) or gel material to gain energy density, safety and agility in manufacturing.

However, Sophie Milly, coordinator of this project in France, believes that “innovation is still needed in this field”. “Lithium-based solid-state batteries do exist, but they use a gel as the electrolyte and only work well at temperatures around 60 degrees Celsius, which means they are not suitable for many applications,” he explains.

other batteries Those being investigated are those of lithium-ion with silicon-rich anodes (Mercedes-Benz will incorporate this material from 2025), those of lithium metal (Volkswagen is committing to this technology by 2025), lithium-sulfur or lithium-air , which uses lithium oxidation at the anode and oxygen reduction at the cathode to induce current flow.

There is agreement that the most popular, cheapest and most mature batteries, those used to start combustion vehicles or as auxiliary systems “cannot maintain their position as a market leader as electric mobility grows,” according to JCR.


Another key to ensuring the future availability of these essential components for devices, vehicles and storage systems is recycling, which can reduce lithium, cobalt and nickel extraction by between 25% and 35% within a decade and a half, according to a report from the University of Technology Sydney’s Institute for a Sustainable Future (Australia). ). Globally, 600,000 metric tons of lithium-ion batteries are recycled. This amount is expected to exceed 1.6 million metric tons by 2030.

But reprocessing these batteries and the metals they contain is difficult and expensive. “The electric vehicle battery is a very complex piece of technology and has many components, so the recycling facility is quite complex. In the long term, this will be important, but in the short term, it’s still a long way to go,” said Michael McKibbin, a geologist. University of California, a favour.

According to research collected by Direct scienceAnd The cost of recycled lithium from batteries is five times higher than recovered lithium. Similarly, some of the processes used, such as smelting devices to extract metals, are energy intensive, emit toxic gases, and cannot recover the desired lithium. Researchers are studying other, more effective procedures.

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