History of The Battery - 20th Century: New Technologies and Ubiquity - Lithium and Lithium-ion Batteries

Lithium and Lithium-ion Batteries

Lithium is the metal with lowest density and with the greatest electrochemical potential and energy-to-weight ratio, so in theory it would be an ideal material with which to make batteries. Experimentation with lithium batteries began in 1912 under G.N. Lewis, and in the 1970s the first lithium batteries were sold.

Three important developments marked the 1980s. In 1980 an American chemist John B. Goodenough disclosed the LiCoO2 cathode (positive lead) and a French research scientist Rachid Yazami discovered the graphite anode (negative lead). This led a research team managed by Akira Yoshino of Asahi Chemical, Japan to build the first lithium ion battery prototype in 1985, a rechargeable and more stable version of the lithium battery; followed by Sony that commercialized the lithium ion battery in 1991.

In 1997, the lithium ion polymer battery was released. These batteries hold their electrolyte in a solid polymer composite instead of a liquid solvent, and the electrodes and separators are laminated to each other. The latter difference allows the battery to be encased in a flexible wrapping instead of a rigid metal casing, which means such batteries can be specifically shaped to fit a particular device. They also have a higher energy density than normal lithium ion batteries. These advantages have made it a choice battery for portable electronics such as mobile phones and personal digital assistants, as they allow for more flexible and compact design.

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