Battery Grade Lithium

If you drove 211 miles north of Las Vegas off the I-95 you would come to a small town called Goldfield, Nevada. It is a very small town whose population counts at the 2000 census was only 440 people.  What makes Goldfield very important to the US and the world is its close proximity to Silver Peak Nevada (home of 80 full time residents).  Silver Peak is home to Chemetall Foote Corporation's local lithium mine, the area's largest employer and the only lithium producing mine in the United States.

Chemetalls’s net sales from mining operation are just over $1 Billion. Not too shabby! In August of 2009 Chemetall was awarded $28.4 million in the Federal Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds to expand and upgrade the production of lithium materials for advanced transportation batteries.  The funds will be used by Chemetall in part to expand and upgrade the production of lithium carbonate at the company’s Silver Peak, Nevada, site. Again it should be noted that Chemetall is the only U.S. domestic source of lithium raw material and the largest global producer of lithium and lithium compounds used in batteries, pharmaceuticals and many other industries. Chemetall is a very important partner in the U.S., economy due to the fact that over the past 7 years about 2.4 Billion batteries are in use and are utilizing approximately 35 million pounds of battery grade lithium.

So what is standard battery grade lithium? Standard battery grade lithium is a lithium carbonate manufactured for solid ion conductors and monocrystals used in the electronics industry. Such carbonate is a source of a raw material for the production of cathode material used in lithium ion batteries (lithium cobalt oxide, lithium manganese oxide).

In terms of its chemical composition standard battery grade lithium, or Lithium bis-(oxalato)borate – LiBOB. LiBOB is a conductive agent for the use in high performance lithium (Li) batteries and lithium ion (Li-ion) batteries and lithium polymer (Li-po) batteries.

In terms of appearance it is a white and free flowing powder. It’s chemical formula is C4BO8Li. Its molecular weight is 193.79 g/mol. Its density is 0,8 – 1,2 g/ccm (at 20°C). Its thermal stability is decomposition > 290°C; hygroscopic; decomposes slowly on contact with water. Its solubility is 17 % in propylene carbonate (25°C) about 35 wt.-% in water;  (hydrolysis) good solubility in carbonate mixtures, carboxylic esters, glymes, ketones, and lactones.

A chemical analysis reveals that C4BO8Li is 97.4% assay (a procedure for measuring the molecular structure of an organic sample); 0.03% water; 2.5% insolubles; 10 ppm of Cyanoacrylate; 10 ppm of Iron; 20 ppm of Sodium; 20 ppm of Chlorine.

So how important is C4BO8Li and is there enough available resource? Current available lithium reserves is estimated at 28,000,000 tonnes. Current worldwide demand is estimated at 23,000,000 tonnes. So there is enough no and for the foreseeable future as long as mines like the Silver Peak mine in Nevada continues to operate.

Until next time, Dan Hagopian –
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Advances in Battery Development

The history of the battery industry can be succinctly boiled down to the following:  we have been seeking to increase capacity, develop longer lifecycles, generate zero emissions, source low-cost raw materials, develop enhanced safety techniques, and of course to design and manage high energy density power packs that reduces the size and weight of all other batteries before.

If you are a electrochemical engineer then the above scenario would be your nirvana.

But what advances are being researched and what can consumers expect in terms of the commercialization? We are familiar with the SCiB and Lithium Air batteries but are there other developments? Let’s look at a few of the recently researched and tested including: NAS and ZEBRA.


In August 2008, Presidio, Texas began installing a backup power source for the city. The backup source is an $8 million dollar NAS battery located on the outskirts of the city. NAS gets its name from Na for sodium and S for sulphur.  This power supply provides the city 4 mega watts of storage to provide temporary backup power, operational power to run the city for approximately 6-8 hours. A sodium sulfur battery is a type of molten metal constructed from sodium (Na) and sulfur (S). This type of construction has a high energy density, high efficiency of charge/discharge (89–92%) and long cycle life, and is fabricated from inexpensive materials. However, operating temperatures reach in excess of 300 degrees Celsius and the sodium polysulfides are highly corrosive, thus an NAS is only suitable for large-scale non-mobile applications like the one in Presidio.


The ZEBRA battery gets its name from the Zeolite Battery Research Africa Project (ZEBRA) group that began developing it in 1985. It’s technical name is Na-NiCl2. The ZEBRA battery is also known as the Zero Emission Battery Research Activities. What makes the ZEBRA so attractive is the specific energy and power it can store (90 Wh/kg and 150 W/kg).  The other aspects to the ZEBRA that makes it attractive is that the primary elements used Na, Cl and Al have much higher worldwide reserves and annual production than the Li used in Li-ion batteries. Also the ZEBRA has lifecycles of over 1500 cycles and five years have been demonstrated with full-sized batteries. Vehicles powered by ZEBRA batteries have covered over 1 million miles.

There are other promising technologies being developed for a wide array of power source applications including military, space, energy, and mobility. It will be interesting to see just what the next nirvana battery will be but one thing is for certain: it will have increased capacity, a longer lifecycle, zero emissions, low-cost raw materials, enhanced safety techniques, and a high energy density.

Until next time, Dan Hagopian –
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Super Charge Ion Battery

Over the last several years Toshiba has been working on a new battery technology that was called the super-charge ion battery (SCiB). The first battery of its kind was shipped in March of 2008. The SCiB battery is touted as a safe, high-performance, long-life, rechargeable battery for a wide array of solutions. The first time we saw it was at the 2007 Consumer Electronic show where Toshiba was displaying it on an electric bike.

Toshiba announced in November of 2009 that they would be building a second production plant to provide for additional capacity as sales ramp up.  Also earlier this year rumors surfaced that Toshiba is building a new 13 inch netbook that will incorporate the new SCiB battery. The netbook will weigh in at just over 2 pounds.

The key advantages that an SCiB battery has is:

  • Excellent Safety
  • Long Life Cycle
  • Rapidly Rechargeable
  • High Power

Excellent safety

The SCiB battery utilizes a new negative-electrode material called lithium titanate that offers a high level of thermal stability and a high flash point electrolyte. The separator is also highly resistant to heat. These features allow for a resistance to internal short circuiting and thermal runaway. This benefit makes the possibility of bursts or combustion very low.

Long-life cycle 

The SCiB battery has capacity loss after 3,000 cycles of rapid charge and discharge is less than 10%. That right after 3000 cycles (lithium ion batteries today taper out after about 500 cycles). Thus the SCiB battery has an excellent long lifecycle, and is able to repeat the charge-discharge cycle over 3,000 times. This means that the SCiB battery can be continuously used for more than 10 years with a once-a-day recharge-discharge cycle.  A standard lithium ion battery during that same time period will have to be replaced 3-5 times.  Imagine a laptop battery lasting 10 years!

Rapidly Rechargeable

One of the neat features is that the SCiB battery can be recharged to 90% of full capacity in less than ten minutes. 

High Power

The SCiB also has a input-output performance equivalent to that of an electric double layer capacitor. This makes the SCiB battery suited to high power applications like electric automobiles, fork lifts, motorcycles, and wind and solar power generators.

The SCiB battery has some other really neat features like the ability to perform in very low temperature extremes, but what concerns me is the price point for customers and commercially viable a new device with an SCiB battery will be?

If the device is priced beyond what your everyday consumer would be willing to pay then it will take a long time to be adopted by the marketplace. It is true that new technologies will change the way people live life but right now when people are so price conscience it just might take a few years before the new SCiB battery will be accepted universally.

Until next time, Dan Hagopian –
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Lithium Air Batteries

Researchers at Argonne National Laboratory are developing a new battery technology that by some estimates would pack 5 to 10 times the amount of energy today’s lithium ion batteries hold. This incredible improvement would be enough energy to allow electric cars to travel up to 400 miles before recharging.  The new battery technology is called lithium air (li-air).

A li-air battery makes electricity by transferring oxygen through a porous carbon electrode where it reacts catalytically with li-ions and electrons to form a solid lithium oxide.  The solid lithium oxide fills the pore spaces inside carbon electrodes as the battery discharges. Then when the battery is recharged, the lithium oxide decomposes again, releasing lithium ions and freeing up pore space in the carbon.  The remaining oxygen is released back into the atmosphere.

The four main challenges to li-air battery technologies are:

  • Safety
  • Cost
  • Battery Life
  • Performance


In terms of safety the great challenge is a materials one. Li-air batteries currently incorporate metallic electrolytes. When you recharge lithium electrodes they become highly reactive with respect to the metallic electrolyte and if these highly charged electrodes are not managed safely the chain reaction could be highly explosive. This is of particular concern when we consider the realities of roadway driving and the potential for car crashes. How would a li-air battery stand up to severe impact?


With research costs well into the tens of millions and the expectation by a consensus of researchers that a safely designed li-air battery would not be commercially viable for another 20 years the development costs will be extremely high and will the battery life and performance for consumers warrant the investment costs?

Battery Life

The other aspect to this is how long with the battery lasts. How many charge-discharge cycles will a li-air battery have? We know the current li-ion batteries have a charge –discharge cycle between 300-500 will li-air be comparable? Will it offer more? Are we talking 1 year of life or 5 and what variables would affect this range differential?


What does 5-10 times the amount of energy stored equate to in terms of real application to a potential user? Can we expect to get up 400 miles is li-air electric car before we have to recharge?

These four challenges to Li-air battery technology are enough of an obstacle to make the possibility of this promising technology to take up to 20 years to come to market. The idea is good and perhaps the theories will pan out someday, however that someday will have to wait for future generations.

Until next time, Dan Hagopian –
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What is the Total Equivalent Lithium Content of My Battery?

If you ever were curious to know just how much of the chemical, lithium, was packed into your battery then there is a way you can calculate it.

Let's look at an example, say the HP Compaq 367759-001, we know that this battery has the following technical specifications: 10.8V, 8800 mAh, Li-ion.

So now let's determine the ELC for one of the cells in this battery. As stated above the rated capacity is 8800 mAh. The mAh is the milliamps and so if we convert that to Ah or amp hours in order to do our calculation you get 8.8 Ah (8800 mAh is the same as 8.8 Ah).

Secondly, we need to divide the voltage by of the battery by the known voltage of each cell used in the battery. Most batteries use either a 3.6V or a 3.7V cell. In the HP Compaq 367759-001 battery cells have a 3.6V.

Finally we can complete our effort in knowing the total ELC in the 367759-001 by performing the following…

1. Divide the stated volts (V) on battery pack by 3.6 (or 3.7) and round to the nearest whole number. 2. Multiply the resulting number by the stated capacity in ampere-hours (Ah).
3. Then multiply that result by 0.3

Example: A lithium ion battery with 10.8 (V) and 8.8 ampere hours (or 8800 mAh).

1. 10.8 ÷ 3.6 = 3
2. 3 x 8.8 = 26.4
3.  26.4 x 0.3 = 7.92 grams of equivalent lithium content

To determine the amount of ELC in your battery follow the steps above and just input the technical specifications of your battery.

 Until next time, Dan Hagopian –
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How to buy a laptop battery?

As of the date of this writing there were 19,300,000 results in a Google search for the keyword laptop battery. On the one hand that is great if you are in need of one but at the same time overwhelming. How do you know what to buy, from who to buy, and what you even should be looking for when buying a laptop battery? I have identified seven categories a person needs to be informed about when going out to make a purchase for a new battery and they include: Part number, Make, and Model; and Chemistry; and Capacity; and Voltage; and Watt Hours; and Number of Cells; and finally the Retailer, Price and Warranty.

Part Number, Make, and Model

Essential to the purchase of your new laptop battery is the part number.  A part number is a unique identifier that is assigned to a part to simplify referencing and to unambiguously define a part within a single manufacturer. The part number above all is what needs to be known before going to buy your battery. Secondly the make and model are next most important part identifiers you must know.  The make is the manufacturer (e.g. Sony, HP, Dell). The model is a multi-component word that includes the line and actually model number. For example the Sony VAIO VGN-FZ90S is an example of a sony made laptop that is part of the VAIO series and which has model number VGN-FZ90S.

Most laptop’s hold this information within your computer’s system info. To access this info go into the properties of your computer and view the model information. The battery’s part number can be found on the battery itself.


Most laptops now require a lithium based battery chemistry. You cannot choose your chemistry type for most batteries.  It is still good however to know which chemistry type yur battery requires.


Capacity also known as runtime Battery capacity quantifies the total amount of energy stored within a battery. More capacity equals a longer runtime between battery charges. Battery capacity is measured in amperes, which is the volume of electrons passing through the batteries electrolyte per second. A milliAmp hour (mAh) is the most commonly used notation system for consumer electronic batteries. Note that 1000 mAh is the same as 1 Ah.

When buying a battery knowing how much capacity you may need depends on: how much you want to spend, how often and how long you use your laptop on battery power, and what applications you my be running off the battery’s power. The higher the capacity the more money you will spend, so if you need the longer runtime’s or you use applications that require more battery juice then buy the higher capacity.


Volts – or V – is an electrical measurement of energy potential. Mathematically voltage is commonly measured by V= I x R; where V=Voltage, I=Current, R=Resistance.  Voltage can also be defined as Electrical Potential difference – a quantity in physics related to the amount of energy that would be required to move an object from one place to another against various types of force. In the fields of electronics the electrical potential difference is the amount of work per charge needed to move electric charge from the second point to the first, or equivalently, the amount of work that unit charge flowing from the first point to the second can perform. A battery contains four unique types of voltage measurements. Each voltage measurement type residing in a battery effects battery life.

  • Float Voltage – is battery voltage at zero current (with battery disconnected).
  • Nominal Voltage – is battery voltage range 3.7V, 5.2V, 10.2V, 12V etc that says that a voltage range exists depending on the number of cells in the battery. For example a 12 Volt battery is made of 6 cells and has a Float voltage of about 12V.
  • Charge Voltage – The voltage of a battery while charging.
  • Discharge Voltage – The voltage of a battery while discharging. Again, this voltage is determined by the charge state and the current flowing in the battery.

For laptop batteries the most common voltage measurements are: 7.2V, 9.6V, 10.8V, 11.1V, and 14.4V. Since you cannot choose the voltage measurement for your laptop go with whatever measurement is closest to your original battery. Remember nominal voltage allows for slight deviation from the original but you cannot use a 7.2V battery if it requires 14.4V. The best example would be a 10.8V battery could be used with an 11.1V battery.

Watt Hours

Whr, Watts, Volts and Amperes are basic units of measure for a DC (Direct current) power supply. A battery, for example, is a direct current power supply and the combined measure Volts x Amps = Watts.  Watts are important because watts represent the electrical energy spent by a battery (power generator) and used by an electrical device. Watts in effect is the measure of the amount of work done by a certain amperage (amount) of electric current at a certain pressure or voltage.  Watt hours are measured by multiplying volts and capacity together (and commonly rounding up).

Number of Cells

The number of cells is important since the more cells contained in the battery the higher the capacity will be. To determine the number of cells in your laptop battery you need to have some general idea of what cells are being used in your battery. The most common battery cell is the 18650 and is manufactured by LG, Sony, Sanyo, Samsung, Panasonic and many others.  The 18650 is a 3.6V cylindrical Li-Ion cell. 18650 has no memory effect (distinguish between digital memory effect) and longer storage life than NiMH battery cells. 18650 is light weight and has a high energy density. It is in effect perfect for building batteries for laptop and other portable power devices.

Specifically the 18650 battery cell has a nominal voltage average of 3.7 V. It has a nominal capacity of 2200 mAh. It has a maximum charge current of 2.4 Ah and a max discharging current of 4.6 Ah. Its dimensions (DxH) are 18.3 mm (Max 18.4) x 64.9 mm (Max 65.1). It weighs   46.5 g (1.64 oz) .  It has cell cycle performance of 80% of initial capacity at 300 cycles. All in all the 18650 is a very good battery cell.

Using this common laptop battery cell as our base you can determine the number of cells in your laptop battery by doing the following. Divide the battery’s stated voltage by the 18650’s nominal voltage to get the number of cells in series and divide the battery’s stated capacity by the 18650’s nominal capacity to get the number of cells in parallel. Then multiply the results of the series and the parallel to get the total number of cells in the battery.

Retailer, Price and Warranty

Once you have all the above information now it is time to pick and choose a retailer to buy from. When choosing a retailer to buy a laptop battery from take into consideration the retailer’s reputation, the price, the warranty, and the return policy. Be sure to chat or speak with one of their representatives if you have questions. Be smart about where you buy from and only buy from a reputable retailer. With batteries you never want used and you always want to be sure that is a problem arises the retailer will be there to make it right.

Until next time, Dan Hagopian –
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