Beijing time on August 3, according tomedia reports, mobile phones and other electronic devices lithium battery will age over time, lithium battery degradation will produce huge environmental costs, there is no better way to store electricity? The widespread use of portable electronic devices such as mobile phones is one of the characteristics of the current era, people can plug in the wall of mobile phones, and then gradually consume the power of these stored electricity. Lithium batteries, on the other hand, are the core components of mobile phones that change the traditional ability to store and carry electricity while revolutionizing our electronic devices.
The development of lithium batteries.
In 1991, when Japan’s Sony First Commercialized Lithium Batteries, the company was actively seeking to address the short battery life of handheld cameras, which have been rolled out to many products such as smartphones, laptops, electric toothbrushes and handheld vacuum cleaners. At the end of 2019, three scientists who invented lithium batteries won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the revolutionary technology.
However, the demand for lithium-ion batteries in modern human life will only increase, and electric vehicles rely on lithium-ion batteries to replace the fossil fuels currently used in cars, and as renewable energy becomes more and more abundant in the global power supply, more batteries will be needed to store electricity for use without wind or sun exposure. More than 7 billion lithium-ion batteries are sold worldwide each year and are expected to exceed 15 billion by 2027.
But as mobile phones age and less power, we know that lithium-ion batteries also have limitations. Over time, the battery’s ability to charge decreases, which means it stores less power. At the same time, lithium-ion batteries can perform less in hot or cold weather, and there are concerns about the safety and sustainability of lithium-ion batteries, which are prone to fire and explosion under certain conditions. In addition, the metal materials needed to mine lithium-ion batteries can be of high social and environmental costs.
This has prompted scientists around the world to try to overcome these problems by developing new batteries that they hope will use new materials, including diamonds, smelly fruits and so on, to find new ways to power future technologies.
Lithium-ion batteries work by moving charged lithium particles (ions) through the middle of the liquid electrolyte, moving current from one end to the other, and the biggest advantage of lithium-ion batteries is the “energy density” – the maximum energy that the battery can hold in its volume, making lithium-ion batteries the most expensive battery available on the market, providing higher voltages than other battery technologies.
In essence, the battery consists of three key components – the negative, the positive, and the electrolytes between the positive and negative poles. The role of the electrode switches between the positive and negative poles, which determines whether the battery is charged or discharged. In lithium-ion batteries, the negative pole is usually made of a metal oxide, which includes another metal, and when charged, lithium ions and electrons move from the negative to the positive, and the electrical energy is “stored” as electrochemical potential energy. This occurs through a series of chemical reactions in the electrolyte, which are driven by the electrical energy flowing in the charging circuit, during which the battery uses the lithium ion seist to flow from the positive and negative in the opposite direction, while the electrons provide kinetic energy to the electronic devices through the electrical system in which the battery is installed.
It is an inevitable trend for new materials to replace lithium-ion batteries.
In recent years, improvements in battery positive and negative materials have helped to increase lithium-ion battery capacity and energy density, but it is now most important to reduce the cost of lithium-ion batteries.
We hope that in the next few years some of the battery function of some electronic portable devices will improve the quality of life. Morrow Pasta, a materials scientist at the University of Oxford in the UK, says the development of chemical technology was at a standstill 35 years ago. Pasta is understood to be the project leader at the Faraday Institute at Oxford University, where he is responsible for developing a new generation of lithium-ion battery technology. His goal is to increase the energy density of lithium-ion batteries while increasing their productivity so that they do not reduce functionality by repeated charging and discharging.
To do this, Pasta is committed to replacing highly flammable electrolyte fluids in lithium-ion batteries with solid materials made of ceramics that reduce the risk of electrolyte burning in short-circuitor or unstable conditions. In 2017, after a series of battery failures on Samsung phones, 2.5 million Galaxy Note 7s phones were launched immediately, and the use of solids instead of traditional electrolytes is critical to the safety of future phones because polymer gel electrolytes in most portable electronics are flammable.
The solid-state battery could also use dense metal lithium instead of graphite positive, significantly increasing energy storage, which could have far-reaching implications for future electric vehicles.
At present, each electric vehicle has the equivalent of thousands of iPhone batteries, and experts say electric cars will gradually replace fossil fuel vehicles in most countries in the coming years, with a revolutionary shift to solid-state batteries meaning longer charging life.
We want batteries to be widely used in electrical and portable electronic devices in the next few years, so should we look for alternatives to lithium batteries to mitigate their environmental impact?
The “lithium triangle” of the Andes, which includes parts of Argentina, Bolivia and Chile, contains more than 50 per cent of the world’s lithium-metal natural resources, but the extraction of lithium from saline fields requires water and is a lot of water. It is reported that in Chile’s Atacama salt marsh region, the mining of lithium metal, for every 900 kg of lithium metal extracted, about 1 million liters of water. This involves gradually dissolving metal-rich salts in water, filtering and evaporating until pure lithium salts are extracted. However, Chile’s environmental agency warns that lithium and copper mining in the region consumes far more water than natural precipitation.
To solve this problem, researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany are studying how to use different metals, such as calcium or magnesium, at the positive part of the battery. Calcium is the fifth-largest element in the earth’s crust and is unlikely to have supply problems like lithium, but research on calcium improving battery performance is still in its infancy. Magnesium also shows encouraging initial results, particularly in terms of energy density, and has good business prospects planning.
In recent years, some scientists are actively looking for more readily available materials to replace lithium metal, and Hu Liangbing, director of the Center for Materials Innovation at the University of Maryland, has used porous wood chips as electrodes to create a battery in which metal ions react to generate electricity. The wood stock is abundant, low cost and light weight, demonstrating the potential for high performance in battery applications. Currently, the latest batteries developed over the years can store electrical energy using wood, including tinting on wood fibers, and since wood has been able to penetrate as woody plants to transmit nutrients, electrodes made of wood have the ability to store metal ions and are not in danger of expanding or shrinking like lithium-ion batteries.
“There is a common phenomenon in Congo, where almost every miner takes a child to dig a lithium mine.”
Although Hu’s research team predicts that wood batteries could be used in portable electronic devices and large-scale energy storage in the future, the technology is not yet available to charge laptops and is still being tested in the lab. At present, the wood battery charging speed is relatively fast, a wooden battery equipped with electronic devices after 100 charges, can only maintain the initial capacity of 61%.
Currently, the wood material used in batteries is only a few centimeters wide and long, but in the future, batteries can be stacked or connected together for larger applications that will eventually be used for energy storage in homes or other buildings.
In fact, lithium is not the only metal used in modern batteries, and most batteries use cobalt and lithium at the negative level, but cobalt mining produces toxic substances that pose a health threat to residents near the mine and seriously damage the ecological environment. Some countries in Africa currently use child labour to mine cobalt, particularly the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which has more than 50 per cent of the world’s cobalt resources.
“There is a common phenomenon in Congo, where almost every miner takes a child to dig a lithium mine.” Jody Rutkenhaus, a chemical engineer at Texas Agricultural University, said. This phenomenon inspired her to develop alternatives to “blood batteries”, complex molecules made and used by organisms, the positive and negative poles, which are generally made of graphite, and the negative poles, which are made of metal oxides containing elements such as cobalt, which, if both active electrodes can be replaced with organic materials, mean that cobalt will no longer be mined in large quantities in the future to make batteries.
Currently, only about 5% of the 1.5 billion lithium-ion battery smartphones sold each year are recycled.
Jody is understood to have teamed up with colleague Karen Woolley to develop the protein battery, the world’s first self-degradable battery in acid, meaning it can be easily broken down and reused.
While protein batteries are still in the proof-of-concept phase and cannot compete with lithium-ion batteries, they can be recharged 50 times before they are scrapped and provide 1.5-volt power, but this is an exciting design that confirms that new batteries will be sustainable in the future.
Super Fruit Battery: Durian battery charging takes only 30 seconds.
Today, an innovative team is not only finding new ways to power batteries, but also tackling food waste. Vincent Gomes and Rabona Shabnam, chemical engineers at the University of Sydney in Australia, are turning the world’s most stinky fruit durian and the largest fruit pineapple honey scrap into a supercapacitor that can charge phones, tablets and laptops in just a few minutes.
“My wife couldn’t stand the smell, she put the durian in the fridge for a night and then took out the remaining durian.” Gomes quipped.
Supercapacitors are another way to store energy, like cisterns, that can charge quickly and then release energy during an explosion, often made of expensive materials such as graphene. But Gomez’s team has turned the inedible substance in durian and pineapple nectar into a carbon aerogel, a porous ultra-light solid structure with special natural energy storage properties.
Heat durian or pineapple honey, freeze and dry, and bake the core structure of the sponge, which is not edible in the fruit, at a high temperature above 1500 degrees Celsius in the oven, and eventually these black, high-porous, ultra-light structures can be made into electrodes for low-cost supercapacitors.
Supercapacitors are charged in just 30 seconds and are used in many electrical devices. “It’s incredible to be able to charge your phone in less than a minute, ” Shabnan said. Our goal is to use these sustainable supercapacitors to store renewable energy for use in cars and homes. “
In addition, the use of durian, pineapple honey as supercapacitors also has a good environmental use, because of the special odor of the fruit, more than 70% of the world’s durian is usually discarded. In 2018, the smell of durian caused the temporary suspension of an Indonesian airliner, and in 2019, the University of Canberra Library in Australia was evacuated due to the presence of a residual durian. In the early stages of the study, Gomes’s wife was also disgusted by the foul smell of durians, who sat in the fridge for a night before being removed and discarded.
Other types of plant waste could also be used as electrical equipment in the future, and Mikhail Astakhov, a physical chemist at Moscow State University of Science and Technology in Russia, has turned pig grass into a supercapacitor raw material that can be used to charge mobile phones, and it is known that pig grass is not of much use in daily life, containing toxic liquids that blister human skin.
Artificial diamond battery: small size, long life!
Although overcoming the environmental problems of lithium-ion batteries can finally be solved, some experts are studying them in depth to try to break through the limitations of other materials. Tom Scott, a materials scientist at the University of Bristol in the UK, believes lithium-ion batteries will still dominate the battery market in the next century, but in extreme environments some special energy storage materials will be used.
In recent years, Scott and his research colleagues have been working on diamond batteries that, by growing artificial diamonds containing radioactive carbon-14, can create “beta-voltaic batteries”, which can generate constant currents and last for thousands of years. Radioisotopes locked in man-made diamond lattices release ultra-high-energy electrons when nuclear decay. Electronics can be generated by artificial diamonds, which are used to make currents. They stressed that the radiation index of the diamond battery remained within the safety level at the outside level.
Now the team has created a prototype of a “diamond battery” in which they placed the artificial diamond in a radiation field produced by the isotope nickel-63, triggering electrons to pass through the diamond. Now they are working on how to extract carbon-14s from graphite blocks at nuclear power plants, and Scott and colleagues hope to convert the waste into batteries that last longer.
Scott’s colleague Sophie Osbourne said: “We’ve been collecting nuclear waste for a long time, and now we’re not talking about long-term storage, we’re using it for power generation.” “
Although chemical batteries such as lithium-ion batteries are not suitable for high-temperature environments, diamond batteries can challenge extreme environments and have some advantages, such as applications in space environments, ocean bottoms, volcano tops, etc., and will be the best batteries to keep satellite power and sensors running properly.
“Another advantage of man-made diamond batteries is that they are so small that researchers have now created a 1.8-volt diamond battery that resembles an AA battery, albeit with much lower current. Technically, man-made diamond batteries are rechargeable, but require a few hours in the reactor core to reach the rated power, although a stable current is generated when radioactive material decays, meaning they can be used for a long time, with a half-life of 5730 years. “
Although the new batteries are made from “diamonds”, they are not expensive, says Scott: “You’ll be surprised to find that man-made diamonds are cheap.” “
In the next 10-20 years, he says, we can even see long-life diamond batteries that can power smoke alarms or TV remotes, or medical devices such as hearing aids or pacemakers. In the future, we may not have to feel pain by replacing the smoke alarm failed battery in the middle of the night.