What is a Lithium Battery: Definition, Technology & Work Process

o the fact that they are one of the most energetic and reliable rechargeable batteries you can find. They are used in electronic devices like mobile phones, and laptops; they also have other applications like being utilized by automotive companies for electric vehicles.

Li-ion batteries are known to possess the ability to overheat, and being susceptible to overheating can lead to combustion at times. However, the combustion rate of these batteries is very low as only about three battery packs in a million are problematic.

What is a Lithium Battery?

A lithium battery is a type of rechargeable battery technology that leverages the unique properties of lithium, the lightest of all metals.

Lithium batteries possess metallic lithium as an anode material. They are quite unique when compared to other batteries because of their high cost per unit and high energy density.

A lithium battery operates on the principle of intercalation and deintercalation of lithium ions from a positive electrode material and a negative electrode material, with the most common type being the Lithium-ion battery.

Lithium-ion batteries have become increasingly popular over the years, and the reason for them being so commonly utilized is due t

What Is The Difference Between Lithium And Lithium-Ion Batteries?

The main difference between lithium cells and lithium-ion cells is that Lithium-ion batteries are rechargeable, while their counterparts are not. Lithium-ion cells have charge/discharge cycles that go on and on up to thousands of times.

If you leave these two kinds of batteries sitting on the shelf unused, the Li-ion batteries will last for about two or three years, while the lithium battery has a longer shelf life of up to 10 to 12 years.

A Short History Of The Lithium-Ion Battery

A Short History Of The Lithium-Ion Battery

The lithium-ion battery idea was first proposed in the 1970s when English chemist Stanley Whittingham was inventing a battery that could recharge on its own with time. He tried using titanium disulfide and lithium metal as the electrodes, but it made the batteries short circuit and exploded.

During the 1980s, further experiments carried out by John Goodenough and then Akira Yoshino proved that eliminating lithium metal would make the battery safer. And that was how the development of the lithium-ion battery began.

In the 1990s, li-ion technology started gaining people’s favor, quickly rising its popularity. This was when the initial commercial cells were produced by the Sony Corporation. The safety concerns of lithium metal battery are what caused the lithium-ion battery to be developed. While the lithium metal batteries have a higher energy density, the li-ion battery is very safe when it is charged and discharged using specific safety guidelines.

Today, the top five leading lithium-ion battery producers are;

  • CATL (China)
  • LG Chem (Korea)
  • Panasonic (Japan)
  • BYD
  • Samsung SDI (Korea)

What Are Lithium Batteries Made Of?

What Are Lithium Batteries Made Of

The lithium-ion cell is made up of four key components:

  • It consists of the anode that allows the flow of electric current through an external circuit; the anode stores lithium ions when the battery is charged
  • Secondly is the cathode, tasked with determining the voltage and capacity of the battery; it is the source of lithium ions
  • Then, there is the electrolyte that functions as the conduit of lithium ions between the cathode and anode; it is made up of additives, solvents, and salts.
  • Lastly, we have the separator, which is a physical barrier with the function of keeping the cathode and anode away from each other

How Do Lithium-Ion Batteries Work?

As stated above, the separator in the lithium batteries moves lithium ions from the cathode to the anode and vice versa through the electrolyte.

As the lithium ions move, it activates free electrons in the anode, which creates a charge at the positive current collector. Then, there is a flow of that electric current through the powered device (cell phones, laptops, etc.) to the negative current collector. The flow of electrons inside the battery is blocked by the separator.

When you plug in your electronic devices to charge, the cathode releases lithium ions, and they are received by the anode to ensure the battery is recharged. While during the discharge process, lithium ions are released by the anode and received by the cathode, resulting in the generation of a flow of electrons from one end to the other.

Internal Components of a Li-ion Battery

If you dismantle a lithium battery (not recommended), you will see the following;

  • Li-ion cells: They can either be prismatic, cylindrical cells, or pouch cells (aka lithium polymer).
  • Battery Charge State Monitor: This is a small computer that controls the charging process of the battery.
  • Voltage tap: Tasked with monitoring the energy capacity of individual cells of the batteries.
  • Notebook Connector: Allows smooth flowing of information and power in and out of the battery.
  • Regulator Circuit and Voltage Converter: They maintain safe levels of current and voltage.
  • Temperature sensors: For monitoring the temperature of the battery.

What Is The Difference Between A Lithium Battery And A Regular Battery?

A typical lithium-ion battery pack looks the same as a regular battery pack, but their difference lies in battery safety and battery performance. Lithium-ion batteries have a higher energy density than regular batteries, which means they are capable of holding greater energy in the same battery size.

The better performance can sometimes lead to safety concerns like releasing the stored energy in an explosive manner. In addition to that, rechargeable li-ion batteries have a low self-discharge rate, much less than other kinds of rechargeable batteries, which contributes to its better battery life.

You cannot recharge regular batteries like the li-ion battery. Also, the lithium-ion battery has a high working voltage, so it is suitable for portable electronic devices like MP3, digital cameras, mobile phones, and many more.

What Are The Different Types Of Lithium Batteries?

What Are The Different Types Of Lithium Batteries

Yes, electronics use lithium batteries, but they do not all use the same type because each device has a battery that is compatible with it.

We will be looking into six different types of lithium batteries. The many types of lithium batteries depend on chemical reactions and specific unique materials to store energy. The following are the lithium battery types we have;

  • Lithium Titanate: Unlike other chemistries, these batteries substitute the graphite in the anode with lithium titanate and utilize NMC or LMO as the cathode chemistry. This creates a battery that has a faster charging process and a longer life.
  • Lithium Nickel Cobalt Aluminum Oxide: These batteries have a long life cycle and deliver high specific energy with an appropriate specific power. Typically, they can maintain the delivery of large amounts of current for longer times.
  • Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt Oxide: This type of battery pack has three elements as its cathode materials (cobalt, manganese, and nickel). Manganese has a low specific energy, but it is extremely stable, while nickel has high specific energy but is not stable. So, the combination of these two creates stable chemistry with a high specific energy.
  • Lithium Manganese Oxide (LMO): This battery has lithium manganese oxide as its cathode material. With this chemistry, it is able to create a 3-d structure that increases current handling, lowers internal resistance, and bolsters ion flow, all while increasing thermal stability and safety.
  • Lithium Cobalt Oxide: The lithium cobalt oxide battery has low specific power and high specific energy. This implies that they can operate and deliver power for long periods but are limited when it comes to high-load applications.
  • Lithium Iron Phosphate: The lithium iron phosphate (lifepo4) battery utilizes a graphitic carbon electrode as the anode and phosphate as the cathode material. These batteries have longer-lasting life, good electrochemical performance, and thermal stability.

Which Type Of Lithium Battery Is Best?

There are many different kinds of lithium batteries, and each has its advantages and disadvantages. They also have specific areas they perform exceedingly well.

So, your power requirements, safety tolerance, budget, and application will present you with the best choice that will suit you.

However, we can say that LiFePO4 (LFP) batteries are the safest ones with a thermal runaway threshold of about 518 degrees Fahrenheit (270 Celsius).

What Are The Applications Of Lithium Batteries?

What Are The Applications Of Lithium Batteries

There are no limitations when it comes to the application of lithium-ion batteries in the real world as it has been tested by different companies and used in portable electronics or small devices (laptop, camcorders, energy storage systems, and even in as electric vehicle battery). These are the top applications of lithium batteries;

  • Portable Power Packs: It has already been proven that lithium batteries do a great job to power our laptops, computers, and phones. They are also smaller and lighter than lead-acid batteries. Transitioning the existing technology to a more effective portable power pack can be done without stress, thanks to custom lithium battery options.
  • Surveillance or Alarm Systems in Remote Locations: The omission of hard-wired electricity limits the security of most people. However, you can securely monitor any location you want with an alarm or surveillance system that runs on lithium-ion batteries.
  • Solar Power Storage: Because of their quick charge process and their manner of charging, lithium batteries are the perfect choice for solar panels as they allow you to get the most of the potential power storage from the sunlight daily.
  • Lightweight Marine Performance: The mixture of electricity and water could pose certain problems. It doesn’t matter if you need to power your whole yacht or power a small trolling motor; you can rely on lithium batteries to get the job done.
  • Dependable Electric and Recreational Vehicle Power: You can depend on lithium batteries to power your electric or recreational vehicle as their reduced size and weight make for increased efficiency. So, if you are thinking of exploring remote locations and you want to be safe and comfortable while you do so, you should opt for li-ion batteries to power your vehicle.
  • UPS or Emergency Power Backup: Since lithium batteries are known to store energy efficiently, they are the ideal choice for a UPS or emergency power backup to protect you from power instability or power loss.

How Long Do Lithium Batteries Last?

How Long Do Lithium Batteries Last

Firstly, we will talk about how long the lithium cell can last on the shelf. There are various factors that impact the life of a Li-ion battery pack, including the charge state it was in, the battery temperature, and where it will be stored. However, there is a nice range for how long a li-ion battery can last. If you used the suggested guidelines to take care of your battery, it should have 2/3 years shelf life.

You can also keep some things in mind to help your li-ion batteries last longer. They include;

  • The lithium-ion chemistry doesn’t fancy a deep discharge; instead, it prefers a partial discharge. Among battery chemistries, lithium-ion chemistry is one of the best as it doesn’t have a memory effect, which means you don’t impact the battery efficiency with a partial discharge.
  • Since lithium-based batteries don’t age well with time, if you are buying a new battery, ensure it is really new so you can be sure of the energy capacity.
  • Ensure you keep the li-ion batteries away from heat as high temperatures are known to drain and harm the battery pack.

Do Lithium Batteries Last Longer Than Alkaline Batteries?

The alkaline battery is a rechargeable battery that is known to drop a bit of its voltage with each recharge. So, how does it measure up against li-ion batteries?

Rechargeable lithium batteries have been known to have better durability than their alkaline counterparts as they can outlast them for up to 10 cycles. The alkaline batteries may be a more cost-effective choice (one advantage they have), but they don’t last as long as Li-ion batteries in operation.

What Are The Benefits Of Lithium Batteries?

Lithium-ion batteries are more widely used than other cells as they boast a fair number of salient advantages over their fellow technologies. These include:

  • They were developed to handle lots of charge and discharge cycles.
  • They are known to retain their charge. A lithium-ion battery pack has only a 5% loss of its charge each month, compared to the nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries that loses about 20% of their charge monthly.
  • Generally, the lithium battery is lighter than other batteries of identical size. The reason they are this light is that their electrodes are made of lightweight carbon and lithium.
  • They have a very high energy density. In one kilogram of battery, a lithium battery can store 150 watt-hours. A lead-acid battery stores 25 watt-hours in the same kilogram; with lead-acid technology, it would take 6 kg to store the exact amount of energy that 1 kg of li-ion battery handles. Finally, a nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) battery pack stores around 70 watt-hours in 1 kg of battery.

If you want to know about the advantages of lithium batteries over alternative technologies, check our comparison pages:

Do Lithium Batteries Have Any Disadvantages?

There are some risks and concerns with the li-ion batteries that everyone should be aware of;

  • There is a slight possibility that if it falls onto a solid surface with immense speed, it is likely to catch fire.
  • Discharging the li-ion battery completely could get it ruined.
  • High temperature is detrimental to its lifespan. Storing these batteries in hot temperatures would cause them to degrade at a quicker rate.
  • Their degradation starts immediately after they are shipped out of the factory. So, most lithium batteries are expected to last only two to three years from their date of manufacture.
  • There is a flammable electrolyte in these batteries capable of causing battery fires to occur on a small scale. This was seen in the Samsung Note 7, and it caused the manufacturers to stop further manufacturing and production.
  • Lithium batteries are not allowed on planes because there’s the possibility that they might produce bizarre heat levels and could lead to an inextinguishable fire. That’s the reason for the ban on li-ion batteries by aviation authorities.

Are Lithium Batteries Environmentally Friendly?

Are Lithium Batteries Environmentally Friendly

The reliability of lithium batteries by makers of electric cars and electronic equipment cannot be argued. It’s no surprise they have a high demand and a great replacement for alkaline batteries as they are efficient chargers, with a higher energy density, and of course, easily disposable.

Li-ion batteries do not contain as many toxic metals as other batteries that could consist of toxic metals such as nickel-cadmium or lead. This is why they are known to be a non-hazardous waste.


Now that you have been introduced to this much analysis and data, you should know all about lithium batteries; their costs, history, advantages and disadvantages, the do’s and don’t’s so as to lengthen its life cycle and prevent problems like an explosion.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can lithium batteries be used in place of alkaline?

While lithium batteries use a more expensive battery technology, their ability to hold a high voltage means they are a better performing alternative to your standard alkaline batteries.

2. Do lithium batteries ever leak?

There is no issue with storing lithium batteries as they do not leak. Lithium ignites when in contact with air or water. They are less likely to leak because off-gassing is not a problem for the liquid electrolyte present.

3. Do lithium batteries need ventilation?

Lithium batteries do not produce gas in a similar manner as other batteries, but to avoid thermal runaway, you need to give them proper ventilation.

4. What temperature do lithium-ion batteries explode?

It can be dangerous if a lithium battery is heated for a long time. Li-ion batteries have so much energy, and when they get hot, they vent the organic solvent used as electrolytes; this heat can cause them to explode and take the whole pack with it. Short circuits that happen when the battery terminals come in contact with metals can also lead to an explosion. Lithium batteries explode at 538 degrees.