As a software based company, we like to research all topics that are relevant to this side of technology. However, we are also committed to researching every attribute to ensure that the software that we develop meets and exceeds consumer expectations, which involves hardware as well.
A weak smartphone battery is an ongoing issue (especially with the avid app users!). So much so, many of us need to carry a phone charger around with us, just in case. Fortunately, powerful innovation and technology has pushed batteries to charge faster, and have a higher capacity than ever before. In this blog post, we are focusing on the element that has made this possible: Lithium.
What is Lithium?
Lithium is a versatile element. It has the lightest known weight across metals, it is as malleable as butter (literally, you can cut it with a butter knife!), and it can even be used in medicine. The leading types of lithium batteries that consumers use are Li-Po and Li-ion. These are significantly more effective than the Nickel-based (Ni-Cad and NiMH) batteries that used to be the most powerful battery on the market.
There has been a significant uptake of lithium batteries in consumer products. This has allowed Electronics companies to improve designs that had previously been limited due to low power supply and capacity. The application of Lithium batteries has continued to spread. These batteries are now being used in mobile phones, tablets, portable power packs, laptops, video game controllers, E-Cigs and so on; basically, in any product needing lightweight, powerful batteries. This has progressed to bigger devices as well, such as solar power storage, emergency power backup and road vehicles, which brings us to the next point.
Getting Bigger and Scaling
Since the initial uses of Lithium in consumer products, the demand, size and scale of use has increased immensely. Although Lithium is one of the more abundant elements on the planet, generally it has been hard to find viable deposits to meet demand. Therefore, whilst it is in short supply, there is a race underway to find and exploit new deposits of lithium in worthwhile quantities. This has caused the price of lithium to shoot up by nearly 300% in the last 5 years.
Historically, producers have used the old system of mining with salt pools, which is cheaper and easier than other methods. However, the increase in price is sufficient justification for producers to start using hard rock mines to meet the desired levels of supply, even if they are 10 times more expensive to run! Please see the link to the Bloomberg website, which shows a video illustrating how Lithium is mined in Chile using salt pools: click here.
The Renewable Future
Experts are predicting a shortage of lithium in the coming years, especially with the mass-produced electric vehicles race well underway. Specialist manufacturers, such as Tesla, are now facing growing competition from the old giants of the petrol and diesel car industry, who are following suit in developing their own electric/hybrid vehicles. Many of whom are in the process of developing, or have already developed and released their own electric or hybrid vehicles. This could be considered the gateway to lithium being applied to other modes of transport, and beyond.
Regardless of other applications, demand in electric road vehicles certainly sets the stage for a boom in battery demand and prices globally, with lithium deposits being the crucial target in the race for mass production. The businesses at the forefront of this movement have started to tailor their infrastructure to accommodate this. For example, Tesla’s Gigafactory (situated in Sparks, Nevada – cool location) is ready to streamline the supply chain process by taking imports of lithium ore directly from the mines, refining this and creating finished cars, all under one roof (quite a big one for that matter!).
Several companies have capitalised on the increasing value of lithium. For instance, one US company identified the usage of lithium in old products, proceeding to recycle these batteries since 2015. In doing so, they have been awarded government grants of almost $10 Million from the U.S. Department of Energy. This race appears to be paving a promising and sustainable path for the future. Maybe lithium could be an unsuspected weapon in the fight against global climate change.
If you have any views or opinions towards this, we would love to hear them.