The most common use of lithium-ion batteries is as rechargeable batteries. It is commonly used in electronic devices such as smartphones, laptops, and electric vehicles. Lithium-ion batteries are known for their high energy density, long cycle life, and relatively low self-discharge rate.
Li-ion batteries are composed of a cathode and an anode, with an electrolyte separating the two electrodes. The cathode is made up of lithium metal oxide, whereas the anode is made of graphite.
The key raw materials used in lithium-ion battery production are:
- Lithium is the primary component of the battery. It is a highly reactive metal capable of storing a large amount of energy.
- Cobalt is a metal used in the cathode of the battery and helps improve the energy density and stability of the battery.
- Nickel is another metal for the cathode of the battery. A combination with cobalt is used to further improve the battery’s energy density.
- Manganese: It is used in the cathode of the battery with a combination of nickel and cobalt to improve the stability and safety of the battery.
- Graphite: It is used in the anode of the battery to help improve the performance and stability of the battery.
- Aluminium: It is used in the casing of the battery to provide a lightweight and durable outer shell for the battery.
- Copper is used in the wiring and electrical connections of the battery to ensure efficient energy transfer throughout the battery.
The countries producing the key raw materials used in lithium-ion batteries are:
- Lithium-producing countries in the world are Australia, Chile, Argentina, and China.
- Cobalt-producing countries are the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Russia, and Australia.
- Nickel-producing countries are Indonesia, the Philippines, and Russia.
- Manganese producers are in South Africa, Australia, and Gabon.
- Graphite-producing countries are China, India, and Brazil.
- Aluminum-producing countries are China, Russia, and Canada.
- Copper-producing countries are Chile, Peru, and China.
The key positive impacts of global lithium-ion production are:
- Energy storage: Li-ion batteries are critical for renewable energy systems such as solar, wind power, and electric vehicles. Energy storage is enabled when it is generated and used later to help reduce fossil fuel reliance.
- Job creation: Li-ion battery production and use created many jobs in the manufacturing, installation, and maintenance of renewable energy systems and electric vehicles.
- Increased access to energy: Li-ion battery availability improved access to energy in remote or off-grid areas with difficult and expensive connections to the grid.
The key negative impacts of global lithium-ion production are:
- Environmental impact: Li-ion battery production has significant environmental impacts, such as pollution from mining, processing, and transportation of raw materials. The extraction of lithium, cobalt, and nickel results in water pollution, soil degradation, and habitat destruction.
- Carbon emissions: Li-ion battery production requires a significant amount of energy, which often comes from fossil fuel sources. This contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.
- Human rights concerns: the concern over the use of child labor and unsafe working conditions in the production of raw materials for Li-ion batteries in countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo