How Minerals Are Used in Rechargeable Batteries
To make batteries, many rare minerals are used. Batteries can generate energy, but making them can also consume lot energy. Considering their life cycles, batteries spend more energy during their manufacturing process from extraction of the required minerals to the finished product. Most of the minerals used in making batteries are one-country sourced, meaning they can only be found in one country.
The Core Material: Minerals
There are four basic components that manufacturers need to build a battery. They are the internal specialized hardware, electrolyte, chemistry and the casing. At the very core of the four basic components are the fundamental blocks which are the raw materials. These minerals are responsible for making the chemistry work inside the battery which enables it to generate power when it is required. There are different types of minerals used in making batteries. They could even include rare earth elements. But usually the minerals used are nickel, lithium, lead, cobalt and cadmium.
Why Minerals Are Important In Batteries
Chemistry is at the core of the battery operation and the chemical process is enabled by the minerals that the battery contains. This is why minerals are the most important components of a battery. Basically, these minerals store and then convert electrochemical energy so that they could provide power on demand to a portable device anywhere and anytime. If this chemical process is not used, it is impossible to convert chemical energy into electrical energy. It goes to say therefore that minerals are really critical in the production of batteries.
How Batteries Are Built
The kinds of minerals that are contained in a battery dictate its price. But although minerals are the most important components of a battery, they only represent a part of how a battery is created. A casing is also needed to house all the minerals and the battery components. In addition, the battery will not be able to generate energy if there is no specialized hardware and the electrolyte.
What Is Battery Chemistry?
Chemical energy is what is stored in a battery. It needs to convert this energy into electrical energy. To do that, the battery uses a chemical base which enables the conversion to happen. The types of chemical bases that are used in making batteries today include:
1. Lithium-ion used to make lithium-ion batteries
This type of battery is commonly used today because of its advantages over the other types. Being made of the lightest of metals, it can provide the biggest density per weight and the highest electrochemical potential. Lithium-ion batteries also pose no environmental problems when they are disposed of.
2. Lead-acid used to make lead-acid batteries
This is the cheapest batteries that can be used for large applications if weight is not a big factor. They are mostly used in UPS systems, emergency lighting, small transport vehicles like motorized wheelchairs, hospital equipment and many more. Vehicles such as cars, trucks and buses are all using lead-acid batteries for electric power.
3. Nickel-cadmium used to make nickel-cadmium batteries
These types of batteries were the first portable batteries developed by man. They were introduced in 1899. When extended temperature, high-discharge and long-life are required, these batteries are the ones preferred.
4. Nickel-metal-hydrite combination
These types of batteries are made of the combination of nickel, metal and hydrite and are designed to be used on small applications such as laptop and mobile phones.
5. Reusable Alkaline
This material can only provide low load currents but has a long shelf life. That is why they are used to make batteries for flashlights and other small portable entertainment devices.
6. Lithium-ion polymers used to make Lithium-ion polymer batteries
These batteries are similar to Lithium-ion batteries but they have simple packaging with slimmer and simpler geometry. They are largely used in PDA’s and mobile phones.
Estimated Amount of Minerals Used In Making Batteries
A report revealed the estimated amount of minerals that manufacturers have used in producing batteries. Here are some of minerals and their respective amounts.
- Nickel – approximately 426,000,000 pounds were used to produce rechargeable batteries in 2005
- Cadmium – 1,312,000 pounds were used in making rechargeable batteries in 2005
- Lead-acid – 81,700,000 automotive lead-acid batteries were made in the first eight months of 2012. About 60 percent of an average lead-acid battery weighing 14.5 kilos is taken up by lead. The weight of lead in one battery would therefore be about 8.7 kilos.