Lithium-ion Lithium-ion batteries How do they work



Lithium-ion battery

A 3.6v Li-ion battery from a Nokia 3310 mobile phone
Specific energy100–265 Wh/kg (0.360–0.954 MJ/kg)
Energy density250–693 Wh/L (0.90–2.49 MJ/L)
Specific powerc. 250–340 W/kg
Charge/discharge efficiency80–90%
Energy/consumer-price7.6 Wh/US$ (US$132/kWh)
Self-discharge rate0.35% to 2.5% per month depending on state of charge
Cycle durability400–1,200 cycles
Nominal cell voltage3.6 / 3.7 / 3.8 / 3.85 V, LiFePO4 3.2 V, Li4Ti5O12 2.3 

lithium-ion or Li-ion battery is a type of rechargeable battery which uses the reversible reduction of lithium ions to store energy. The anode (negative electrode) of a conventional lithium-ion cell is typically graphite made from carbon. The cathode (positive electrode) is typically a metal oxide. The electrolyte is typically a lithium salt in an organic solvent. Lithium-ion

It is the predominant battery type used in portable consumer electronics and electric vehicles. It also sees significant use for grid-scale energy storage and military and aerospace applications. Compared to other rechargeable battery technologies, Li-ion batteries have high energy densities, low self-discharge, and no memory effect (although a small memory effect reported in LFP cells has been traced to poorly made cells).


Chemistry, performance, cost and safety characteristics vary across types of lithium-ion batteries. Most commercial Li-ion cells use intercalation compounds as active materials. The anode or negative electrode is usually graphite, although silicon-carbon is also being increasingly used. Cells can be manufactured to prioritize either energy or power density. Handheld electronics mostly use lithium polymer batteries (with a polymer gel as electrolyte), a lithium cobalt oxide (LiCoO
) cathode material, and a graphite anode, which together offer a high energy density. Lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO
), lithium manganese oxide (LiMn
 spinel, or Li
-based lithium rich layered materials, LMR-NMC), and lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide (LiNiMnCoO
 or NMC) may offer longer lives and may have better rate capability. NMC and its derivatives are widely used in the electrification of transport, one of the main technologies (combined with renewable energy) for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles. Lithium-ion

M. Stanley Whittingham discovered the concept of intercalation electrodes in the 1970s and created the first rechargeable lithium-ion battery, which was based on a titanium disulfide cathode and a lithium-aluminum anode, although it suffered from safety issues and was never commercialized.John Goodenough expanded on this work in 1980 by using lithium cobalt oxide as a cathode.The first prototype of the modern Li-ion battery, which uses a carbonaceous anode rather than lithium metal, was developed by Akira Yoshino in 1985, which was commercialized by a Sony and Asahi Kasei team led by Yoshio Nishi in 1991.


Lithium-ion batteries can be a safety hazard if not properly engineered and manufactured since cells have flammable electrolytes and if damaged or incorrectly charged, can lead to explosions and fires. Much development has made progress in manufacturing safe lithium-ion batteries. Lithium ion all solid state batteries are being developed to eliminate the flammable electrolyte. Improperly recycled batteries can create toxic waste, especially from toxic metals and are at risk of fire. Moreover, both lithium and other key strategic minerals used in batteries have significant issues at extraction, with lithium being water intensive in often arid regions and other minerals often being conflict minerals such as cobalt. Both environmental issues have encouraged some researchers to improve mineral efficiency and alternatives such as iron-air batteries.

Research areas for lithium-ion batteries include extending lifetime, increasing energy density, improving safety, reducing cost, and increasing charging speed, among others. Research has been under way in the area of non-flammable electrolytes as a pathway to increased safety based on the flammability and volatility of the organic solvents used in the typical electrolyte. Strategies include aqueous lithium-ion batteries, ceramic solid electrolytes, polymer electrolytes, ionic liquids, and heavily fluorinated systems. Lithium-ion


Research on rechargeable Li-ion batteries dates to the 1960s; one of the earliest examples is a CuF
/Li battery developed by NASA in 1965. The breakthrough that produced the earliest form of the modern Li-ion battery was made by British chemist M. Stanley Whittingham in 1974, who first used titanium disulfide (TiS
) as a cathode material, which has a layered structure that can take in lithium ions without significant changes to its crystal structure. Exxon tried to commercialize this battery in the late 1970s, but found the synthesis expensive and complex, as TiS
 is sensitive to moisture and releases toxic H
gas on contact with water. More prohibitively, the batteries were also prone to spontaneously catch fire due to the presence of metallic lithium in the cells. For this, and other reasons, Exxon discontinued the development of Whittingham’s lithium-titanium disulfide battery


In 1980 working in separate groups Ned A. Godshall et al.,and, shortly thereafter, Koichi Mizushima and John B. Goodenough, after testing a range of alternative materials, replaced TiS
 with lithium cobalt oxide (LiCoO
, or LCO), which has a similar layered structure but offers a higher voltage and is much more stable in air. This material would later be used in the first commercial Li-ion battery, although it did not, on its own, resolve the persistent issue of flammability. The same year, Rachid Yazami demonstrated the reversible electrochemical intercalation of lithium in graphite, and invented the lithium graphite electrode (anode)

These early attempts to develop rechargeable Li-ion batteries used lithium metal anodes, which were ultimately abandoned due to safety concerns, as lithium metal is unstable and prone to dendrite formation, which can cause short-circuiting. The eventual solution was to use an intercalation anode, similar to that used for the cathode, which prevents the formation of lithium metal during battery charging.

A variety of anode materials were studied; in 1987, Akira Yoshino patented what would become the first commercial lithium-ion battery using an anode of “soft carbon” (a charcoal-like material) along with Goodenough’s previously reported LCO cathode and a carbonate ester-based electrolyte. In 1991, using Yoshino’s design, Sony began producing and selling the world’s first rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. The following year, a joint venture between Toshiba and Asashi Kasei Co. also released their lithium-ion battery.


Significant improvements in energy density were achieved in the 1990s by replacing the soft carbon anode first with hard carbon and later with graphite, a concept originally proposed by Jürgen Otto Besenhard in 1974 but considered unfeasible due to unresolved incompatibilities with the electrolytes then in use.

In 2012 John B. Goodenough, Rachid Yazami and Akira Yoshino received the 2012 IEEE Medal for Environmental and Safety Technologies for developing the lithium-ion battery; Goodenough, Whittingham, and Yoshino were awarded the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry “for the development of lithium-ion batteries”.

In 2010, global lithium-ion battery production capacity was 20 gigawatt-hours. By 2016, it was 28 GWh, with 16.4 GWh in China. Global production capacity was 767 GWh in 2020, with China accounting for 75%. Production in 2021 is estimated by various sources to be between 200 and 600 GWh, and predictions for 2023 range from 400 to 1,100 GWh.

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