A Review of Lithium Battery Basics

Posted: Oct 07, 2021

Your life today is powered by lithium batteries. Your mobile phone and laptop computer are operational because of them. Electric cars and transport already use them, and as they gain more popularity, we will rely on lithium batteries to power more transportation options in the future.

The ability to have portable power on demand is a foundation of the modern world but lithium batteries are not new, with the chemistry first being discovered in 1912. So, let's have a closer look at the basics of lithium batteries and how they work.

Why Lithium Batteries Are Used

Lithium batteries are more reliable than other technologies. They're lightweight, which makes them perfect for use in consumer electronics. Batteries using lithium are rechargeable and have higher voltages and longer life spans than batteries using other technologies. In addition, they are very reactive with fast recharges and higher energy density than alternative methods.

Lithium batteries also have a slower discharge time than other batteries. Lastly, since they are rechargeable, these batteries are much more environmentally friendly than their counterparts.

How Lithium Batteries Work

As with all batteries, power generating compartments, known as cells, make up a lithium-ion battery. Each cell contains a positive electrode, usually made from lithium cobalt oxide (LiCoO2), and a negative electrode, generally consisting of carbon (graphite) with a chemical known as an electrolyte separating them.

When a lithium battery is charging, lithium ions move from the positive electrode through the electrolyte to the negative electrode. As the battery discharges, ions move back from the negative electrode to the positive electrode, creating the battery's energy. Electrons flow in the opposite direction to ions in an external electronic device connected to the battery. The electrolyte acts as an insulating barrier preventing the flow of electric current inside the battery.

Lithium batteries have controllers that regulate how they charge and discharge, preventing overcharging and overheating, which can cause lithium batteries to explode in some circumstances.

The Downside to Lithium Batteries

While lithium batteries present a significant upside, they do have their drawbacks. First, the raw materials are finite and thus expensive. They can catch fire if overcharged or there's an internal short circuit. Either of these two events can start a process known as a "thermal runaway," in which the battery heats up until it explodes or catches fire.

The problem is solved with an internal circuit breaker, a current interruption device (CID), that stops the charging current when it reaches maximum voltage.

The Demand for Lithium Battery Testing

No one wants to market a phone that explodes or a laptop computer that spontaneously combusts. Hoverboards were all the rage until they started to catch fire. Beyond the obvious safety implications, these incidents caused real damage to some substantial companies.

The world is currently in a state of transformation as innovation drives the transition away from traditional power sources to electric power. Lithium batteries are essential to this movement; however, the above incidents highlight the risks of pushing for the next breakthrough.

Safe and accurate testing in an environmental test chamber, for both development and production, is necessary to ensure lithium batteries power the next stage of innovation. Battery test chambers are used in automotive, computer, telecommunications, defense, and alternative-energy industries.

Testing For Real-World Conditions

How do you know it's safe to leave your phone charging overnight? Manufacturers build in safety mechanisms, but you need to know they're effective. During testing, batteries need to be pushed to failure to identify breaking points and prevent disasters.

Lithium Battery Testing Solutions from Tenney

Lithium batteries are powering nearly everything we do. Yet, at the same time, they are inherently dangerous. Before sending them out into the world, companies need to know that the built-in safety mechanisms work in all conditions. The Tenney Environmental SafeTestâ„¢ battery testing chamber is used by companies for the safe and reliable testing of lithium batteries. These chambers are available with a line of standard and optional safety features that can be customized to fit a customer's battery-testing needs. To learn more visit our website www.tenney.com