LiFePO4 batteries are the green choice.

Not all lithium-ion batteries are created equal. And when it comes to an environmentally friendly, green solution, the LiFePO (LFP) battery is a clear winner.

12.10.2021
 

Over the past twenty years, rechargeable batteries based on Lithium-ion (Li-ion) chemistry have become the most popular choice of rechargeable cells, ranging from smartphones to electric vehicles. But not all lithium-ion batteries are created equal. And when it comes to an environmentally friendly, green solution, the LiFePO (LFP) battery is a clear winner.

Why do lithium ion batteries win over other chemical batteries such as nickel metal hydride (NiMH) batteries or the venerable lead acid? With an atomic number of 3, lithium is the lightest metal. It offers the greatest electrochemical potential and provides the greatest specific energy per weight - both of which are great advantages of the battery. Unfortunately, when lithium metal is exposed to air or water, it is also unstable, flammable and potentially explosive. As a result, scientists have focused on batteries based on more stable lithium compounds for years.

The primary components of a rechargeable lithium-ion cell are the positive electrode (cathode), negative electrode (anode) and electrolyte. The cathode consists of a lithium compound with a layered structure that allows for the reversible inclusion or introduction of lithium during charging or discharging. There are several common cathode compounds with different properties. The anode is usually made of graphite.

The liquid electrolyte consists of a lithium salt suspended in an organic solvent such as ethylene carbonate or dimethyl carbonate. In operation, lithium ions move from the anode to the cathode during discharging and vice versa during charging. A Lithium Polymer (LiPo) battery uses a polymer gel as the electrolyte.

The lithium-ion battery has a nominal cell voltage of 3.6V, higher than NiMH (1.5V) and lead-acid (2.0V) designs. As a result, to produce high voltage for applications such as EV traction motors, fewer cells have to be connected in series.


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LFP - the best choice for the planet

As the name suggests, the LFP battery uses lithium-ion chemistry and shares many of the common features with other types of lithium-ion batteries. All lithium-ion batteries consume energy during production and require the extraction of lithium and other key ingredients. However, when it comes to the health of the planet, there are significant differences between them.

Commonly used cathodes such as nickel manganese cobalt oxide (NMC) or lithium cobalt oxide LiCoO2 require nickel and cobalt materials that are both limited in supply and expensive. Cobalt mining maintains human rights concerns such as safety in mines and the use of child labor. Environmental problems related to nickel mining include greenhouse gas emissions, habitat destruction, and air, water and soil pollution.

The LFP battery uses lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) as the cathode in combination with a graphite anode with a metal backing. The LFP cathode uses cheap, non-toxic materials - iron and phosphates - which are available in large quantities and are cheap.

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