Lithium battery, the greatest invention in the electronics industry

In December 2020, the UK’s first pure electric vehicle charging station opened in Braintree, and many new energy vehicles came here to experience the fast charging function of lithium batteries.

The history of human civilization is largely supported by energy. From the development of agricultural civilization to information civilization, the energy of human society has also expanded from bio-energy to fossil energy, nuclear energy, wind energy and other forms. For now, the energy problem has begun to profoundly affect the appearance of the blue planet we live in-it is inextricably linked to energy shortages and population growth. Energy prices continue to rise, increasing the burden on consumers and increasing the cost of agricultural industrialization. The conversion of farmland to biofuel production will not only help solve the problem only limitedly, but it may also cause a strain on both energy and food. In terms of climate change, irregular rainfall and seasonal flooding caused by melting snow and glaciers have exacerbated water shortages and caused agricultural disasters in many parts of the world. The combined effect of energy and environmental factors has also made many other problems increasingly prominent, and the biggest danger may be the concurrency of multiple pressures. This unprecedented syndrome will put decision makers under tremendous pressure and it will be difficult for them to take timely actions to seek advantages and avoid disadvantages. From the perspective of human beings, the storage method of converting energy into energy is also of great significance, and the battery is a universal storage carrier, and even the most important carrier. In recent years, as a very common and high-tech battery, lithium batteries have become more and more well-known.

Nobel Prize Laureates in Chemistry and Lithium Batteries
On October 9, 2019, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced the award of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to the “Three Outstanding Lithium Batteries”: Stanley Whittingham, John Goodenough, and Akira Yoshino in recognition of their work in lithium batteries. Outstanding contribution in research and development. The award committee stated that they have brought “a powerful battery that has never been seen before” and created a “rechargeable world.” Without the lithium battery they invented, “there would be no smart phones, tablets or laptops today.” These three winners all have extraordinary life experiences and scientific research journeys.

Whittingham is the inventor of the lithium battery. He used titanium sulfide as the positive electrode material and metallic lithium as the negative electrode material to manufacture the first miniaturized lithium battery with a current of 2v. With the same quality, lithium batteries can store more electrical energy than other batteries, so they are very popular in the market. For example, at the time, “Big Brother” mobile phones used this type of lithium battery. Whittingham took a valuable first step. However, Whittingham’s lithium battery uses metallic lithium as an electrode material, which poses serious safety hazards during use. It is understood that metallic lithium is one of the most active elements in the world, and it can even react with nitrogen. In the process of production and assembly, the air leaked into the air, and the battery was scrapped, and the battery was on fire. produce. Less than half a year after it came out in North America, this lithium battery was recalled due to multiple fires and explosions.

At this time, Goodenough began to debut. Goodenough, who was a classmate with Nobel Laureate Yang Zhenning, studied philosophy and classical literature at Yale University, and stepped into the door of chemistry research by chance. After receiving his Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Chicago, Goodenough was recommended to go to MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory to conduct physical research on memory materials. Here, he contributed to the development of random access memory, which was later computer memory. It is worth mentioning that during this period, he came into contact with batteries for the first time, but at that time he was studying sodium-sulfur batteries. In 1976, he moved to Oxford University again, and since then began to shine.

In 1980, Goodenough tried to use lithium cobalt oxide and graphite to form a new lithium battery. Goodenough’s new battery has a smaller size, larger capacity and more stable use, so it is very popular in the market. Goodenough developed lithium cobalt oxide to replace metal lithium, which not only solved the safety problem of the battery, but also reduced the manufacturing cost of the battery, and achieved a revolutionary breakthrough in lithium-ion battery technology. But Oxford University did not pay attention to Goodenough’s research, so Goodenough gave the patent to a government laboratory near Oxford University. Then, the patent was bought by Sony and continued to be developed, which became the basis of today’s various portable device batteries. Today, lithium-ion batteries have a market worth at least 35 billion U.S. dollars, and Gudinaf did not get the money, but he doesn’t care about it. He said: “I didn’t know it would be so valuable when I did this anyway… I only knew it was something I should do.” In 1983, Gudinaf discovered that manganese spinel is an excellent cathode material. The decomposition temperature of this material is high, and its oxidation is much lower than that of lithium cobalt oxide. Even if there is a short circuit or overcharge, it can avoid the danger of burning and explosion. As of 2013, manganese spinel has been used in commercial batteries. In 1997, Goodenough discovered the lithium iron phosphate LFP cathode material, which has a more stable crystal structure, longer service life, and faster charging. Therefore, Goodenough is also known as “the father of lithium-ion batteries.”

Among the 3 winners of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Akira Yoshino, known as the “Father of Lithium Batteries in Japan”, is the 19th Nobel Prize-winning scientist in Japan since the 21st century. This scientist, born in Osaka Prefecture, Japan, was born in 1948. After graduating from high school, he was admitted to Kyoto University’s Faculty of Engineering, majoring in petrochemistry, and then went on to pursue a master’s degree in engineering. In 2005, Yoshino received his Ph.D. in Engineering from the Graduate School of Osaka University. From 1972 to 2017, Yoshino worked in the famous Asahi Kasei Co., Ltd. and served as the head of the business unit related to the development and operation of lithium batteries. When he joined Asahi Kasei in 1972, Yoshino had been working on the front line and had not engaged in research work. Until the 1980s, due to the advent of mobile phones and notebook computers, the large and insufficient nickel-zinc batteries could no longer meet the demand. The demand for large-capacity and lightweight rechargeable batteries became more and more urgent, so Yoshino, a professional counterpart He was transferred to the Asahi Kasei Corporation’s Kawasaki Institute of Technology and began to engage in research, focusing on the development of new large-capacity rechargeable batteries.

At that time, lithium batteries with metallic lithium as the negative electrode had appeared on the market, but rechargeable lithium batteries had not yet been put into use. In this case, Yoshino led the R&D team to tackle the problem of lithium battery charging. In order to solve the problem of spontaneous combustion of lithium batteries, Yoshino and colleagues racked their brains and spared no effort to study countermeasures. After using organic solvents to successfully use the conductive polymer discovered by Hideki Shirakawa (the winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2000) as the negative electrode of the rechargeable battery, and performing cruel experiments such as “heavy iron impact” and “rifle shooting” on the battery prototype, Yoshino The R&D team finally solved the safety problem of battery spontaneous combustion and explosion.

From the end of the 20th century to the beginning of the 21st century, almost all newly emerged civilized machines were mostly driven by lithium batteries. At present, more than 1 billion lithium batteries are produced and used every year in the world. They have become the basic energy source of modern society and are widely used in automobiles and airplanes. The prototypes of lithium batteries that are currently commonly used are all developed by Yoshino, and all patents for its basic structure and manufacturing process belong to Asahi Kasei. In particular, the diaphragm, the core component of lithium-ion batteries, can be described as the lifeline of lithium batteries. It is particularly difficult to handle technically, and of course the profit is quite high. This technology is still firmly grasped by Asahi Kasei, occupying an absolute leading market share. . This should be attributed to Yoshino’s R&D contributions. It can be said that Whittingham made the lithium battery come out, Goodenough made it lighter and better performance, and Yoshino Akira made it commercial.

The great ability of lithium batteries
Nowadays, human beings can’t leave the lithium battery for a while. Specifically, lithium battery energy storage technology is highly adaptable, has a wide range of applications and scenarios, with high energy density, low self-discharge, no memory effect, wide operating temperature range, fast charge and discharge, long service life, and low environmental pollution. It is the most adaptable technical route in the development of energy storage products at present, and it is not restricted by natural conditions such as terrain. It can be competent for various complex scenarios. It is available in the main energy storage fields such as the power generation side, the user side, and the grid side. Very strong competitiveness.

The first is the civilian field. The primary area for lithium batteries to show their talents should be electric vehicles. At present, whether it is my country or Western countries, the mainstream technology route of new energy vehicles is mainly based on pure electric vehicles. The core of pure electric vehicles lies in the “three-electric” system, namely power lithium battery, drive motor and electronic control system. Among them, power lithium battery not only accounts for a high proportion of the cost (generally accounting for more than half of the cost of new energy vehicles) ), and because it directly affects the range, technical direction and commercial value of new energy vehicles, power lithium batteries are not only the core components of pure electric vehicles, but also the soul of new energy vehicles. It is no exaggeration to say that the technical success or failure of power lithium batteries directly determines the future success or failure of new energy vehicles (pure electric).

Followed by the military field. In the military field, lithium batteries are widely used in underwater robots, army soldier systems, robotic fighters, unmanned aerial vehicles, satellites and other fields, especially conventionally powered submarines. Conventional-powered submarines can perform multiple tasks such as anti-submarine, anti-ship, patrol, security, formation escort, blockade, sabotage of maritime communication lines, intelligence collection and surveillance, mine-laying, and special operations in offshore and offshore areas. The world’s most advanced conventionally powered submarine is undoubtedly Japan’s “Canglong” class. This class of submarines uses a black technology, which is to replace the traditional lead-acid batteries with lithium batteries. According to military expert Cao Chengjun, compared with lead-acid batteries, lithium-ion batteries have many incomparable advantages. The first is higher than energy. The volume ratio energy and weight ratio energy of lithium-ion batteries are more than three times that of lead-acid batteries. Under the same volume, lithium-ion batteries both reduce weight and reserve more electric energy. This feature is more suitable for submarine applications. Conducive to increase the total energy of the submarine battery. Secondly, it is easy to realize fast charging. Lithium-ion batteries have a wide range of charging power, which can be fully charged in 20 minutes to 1 hour, which helps reduce the exposure rate of submarines, effectively improves their concealment performance, and reduces the probability of being spotted by the enemy. Lead-acid batteries cannot meet this requirement. Thirdly, it is safe and stable to use. Since lithium-ion batteries do not contain metal lithium, only lithium ions need to be inserted and extracted during the charging and discharging process, which minimizes the probability of battery overheating and internal short circuit, thereby greatly improving its safety and stability performance. In a complex environment, it provides a reliable power guarantee for the submarine to meet the safety requirements of the submarine propulsion system. Finally, maintenance is easier. Lithium-ion batteries have no memory effect and do not need to be discharged before charging. The self-discharge rate is usually less than 5% per month, does not require periodic treatment, and the cycle life can reach up to 2000 times. Lead-acid batteries have a memory effect. Each time before charging, the last remaining power must be completely discharged. The self-discharge rate is usually 15% to 30% per month. Periodic treatment is required, and its cycle life is relatively short. , Usually between 200 and 500 times. Therefore, replacing lead-acid batteries with lithium-ion batteries eliminates the need for routine deep discharge and periodic treatment of the batteries, making maintenance easier.

In addition, although the cost of lithium-ion batteries is higher than that of lead-acid batteries, due to its longer cycle life, the life-cycle cost of lithium-ion batteries is relatively low. From the perspective of the life-span use of submarines, the use of this battery has more advantages. High cost performance. Therefore, the innovative application of lithium batteries on Canglong-class submarines can not only effectively reduce the risk of being discovered by the enemy, but also greatly improve combat effectiveness to a certain extent. It is foreseeable that this technological innovation will surely bring the overall performance of the Canglong-class submarine to a higher level.

The “Three Outstanding Lithium Batteries” won the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. From left to right: Stanley Whittingham, John Goodenough, Akira Yoshino.

The future of lithium batteries
With the emergence of emerging areas such as “partition wall sales”, virtual power plants, energy big data, and spot markets, the commercial value of lithium batteries will further increase. The global energy storage market will flourish in the next ten years, and the size of the energy storage market may reach US$426 billion by 2030. Energy storage plus new energy will become an important support for network sources. From the perspective of future development trends, the application range of lithium batteries will be further expanded. At present, as the mainstream of secondary rechargeable batteries, lithium batteries are mainly used in mobile phones, notebook computers, portable mobile electronic devices, electric bicycles and even electric children’s amusement vehicles. In the future, with the widespread use of wearable devices, its application range will expand. In addition, its capacity will be further improved. As Goodenough mentioned above, he is now working on a super battery that can make electric cars comparable to internal combustion engine cars. This battery can also store solar and wind energy, and its capacity will be further improved.

As the most important rechargeable and portable energy source, lithium batteries affect all aspects of our lives. Lithium batteries and transistors are regarded as the greatest invention in the electronics industry. The lithium battery industry has reached an annual output of several billion US dollars, providing a steady stream of power for human daily activities. In the future, as technology advances, it will further change the face of the world.