A number of Chinese companies have already begun “on-site inspections” of possible projects to tap lithium deposits in Afghanistan, having received the green light to do so from the Taliban regime.
Lithium ion batteries are bringing in a whole new reality to the world of energy. With battery technology going through a revolution, the new age lithium ion batteries are opening up new possibilities be it mobile phones and laptops, electronic gadgets or automobiles.
What is a lithium ion battery?
Lithium-ion batteries (LIB) are a family of rechargeable batteries having high energy density and commonly used in consumer electronics. These batteries can be commonly found in PDAs, iPods, cell phones, laptops, etc.
What are the advantages of lithium ion batteries?
- Light weight: Since lithium is the lightest metal, using lithium ions made batteries lighter.
- High energy density
- Low self discharge
- No memory effect: The phenomenon whereby rechargeable batteries lose their maximum energy capacity if they are repeatedly recharged after being only partially discharged is termed memory effect. These batteries are free of memory effects.
- Reasonably short charging times
- Maintenance free
- Variety of types and sizes available
What are the disadvantages of lithium Ion batteries?
- Requires protection circuit to maintain voltage and current within safe limits
- Expensive to manufacture - about 40% higher cost than nickel cadmium batteries
- Not a fully mature technology - materials and chemicals changing on a continual basis
- Regulatory restrictions with regard to travel and transportation
- Degrades at higher temperature
- Subject to ageing even when not in use: Li-ion cells age due to innate chemical reactions between the electrodes and electrolyte.
- The high-energy content and active nature of li-ion batteries make it dangerous to dispose of them in regular waste, instead they should be offered for recycling.
- Ecological issues related to un-mindful mining and contamination of land, soil and water bodies. Example: In Chile, extracting the metal uses two-thirds of the area's fresh drinking water.
- Prolonged exposure to lithium dust or alkaline lithium compounds can cause serious respiratory and neurological illness.
Anatomy of a Lithium Ion battery
Li-ion batteries consist of largely four main components:
- Common cathode materials are Lithium Cobalt Oxide (or Lithium Cobaltate), Lithium Manganese Oxide (also known as spinel or Lithium Manganate), Lithium Iron Phosphate, Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt (or NMC) and Lithium Nickel Cobalt Aluminum Oxide (or NCA).
- Nickel gives high energy density to battery.
PERFORMANCE OF DIFFERENT CATHODE COMBINATIONS
- Intercalated lithium compound is used instead of metallic lithium as its electrode.
- Intercalation is the reversible inclusion or insertion of a molecule (or ion) into materials with layered structures, such as graphite (a crystalline form of carbon with its atoms arranged in a hexagonal structure)
- Anode: The anode is generally made with graphite. When lithium is fully intercalated into the anode, six carbons can accommodate one lithium atom.
- Electrolyte: It serves as the medium that enables the movement of only lithium ions between the cathode and anode. The electrolyte is composed of salts, solvents and additives.
- The salts are the passage for lithium ions to move, the solvents are organic liquids used to dissolve the salts, and the additives are added in small amounts for specific purposes.
- Separator: The separator functions as a physical barrier keeping cathode and anode apart. It prevents the direct flow of electrons and carefully lets only the ions pass through the internal microscopic hole.
- The separator is an isolator with no electrical conductivity. Separator serves as fuse in Li-ion cell. On excessive heat, the pores of the Li-ion separator closes by melting and flow of current ceases as battery shuts down.
- Commercialized separators we have today are synthetic resin such as polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP).
CHALLENGES FOR INDIA
- Valuable materials in each of these batteries are available in India only in very limited quantities.
- Meeting the fast-rising demand: It is projected that 6-7 million electric vehicles will run on Indian roads by 2020, and 30% of India's entire fleet will be electric by 2030.
- Absence of a recycling policy for recovering valuable materials from used and discarded batteries
- Reducing cost of electric vehicles depend largely on reducing costs of batteries.Battery pack takes 35-50% of total cost of electric vehicle.
- Affordability: EV adoption will be driven by two-wheelers rather than cars in high numbers because India's mobility market is driven more by two wheelers.
- According to the NITI Aayog, 79% of vehicles on Indian roads are two-wheelers.
- Electric vehicles need battery systems that are optimized for longevity rather than high energy density.
- Dependency on China and few other countries: India does not produce these batteries and about 90% of these batteries sourced from China
- ISRO's VSSC has developed lithium ion cells for use in satellites and launch vehicles and is on path to commercialize this technology
- Government is framing a recycling policy for lithium-ion batteries being used in electric vehicles
- In March 2019, India's union cabinet approved the setting up of a National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage which has Phased Manufacturing Programmes for EVS, EV Components and Batteries.
- NITI Aayog has proposed a three-stage plan for India's Energy Storage Mission
- Developing battery pack manufacturing capacity and establishing a development consortium. Scaling supply chain and R&D
- Scaling end-to-end manufacturing capacity, with focus on battery cells capacity.
- Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) announced it was in discussions with Libcoin consortium to construct India's first lithium-ion battery giga-factory
- The government has announced it would increase the basic import duty on lithium-ion cells to 10% from April 2021, from the current 5%.
- State-owned consortiurn Khanij Bidesh India Ltd (KABIL) which is a joint venture of three central public sector undertakings - National Aluminum Company (NALCO), Hindustan Copper Ltd (HCL) and Mineral Exploration Corporation Ltd (MECL) - has been formed to identify, explore, acquire, develop and process strategic minerals overseas
- KABIL delegation has recently visited the Lithium Triangle countries (Chile, Argentina and Bolivia). KABIL and Bolivian state-owned Yacimientos del Litio Bolivianos (YLB Corporation) are expected to agree to a joint venture for setting up Lithium battery plant in India
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