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Lithium ion battery

Li-Ion Camera Battery
Lithium ion batteries (or Li-ion) have become very common and dropped in price recently. They provide one of the best energy-per-weight ratios of rechargeable batteries at present. They have succeeded nickel metal hydride and nickel-cadmium batteries in consumer electronics such as cellular phones and notebook computers.

Specific energy density: ~150-200 Wh/kg

Volumetric energy density: ~250-300 Wh/L

Lithium ion batteries have a nominal voltage of 3.6V and a typical charging voltage of 4.1V. The charging procedure is "constant current/ constant voltage." This means charging with constant current until the 4.1V are reached by the cell and continuing with constant voltage until the current drops to zero. Lithium ion batteries cannot be fast-charged and need at least 4 hours to fully charge.

Li-ion batteries are not as durable as NiMH and NiCd designs, although they do not suffer from the memory effect. At a typical 100% charge level (notebook battery, full most of the time) at 25 degrees centigrade, Li-ion batteries irreversibly lose approximately 20% capacity per year from the time they are manufactured, even when unused. (6% at 0 degrees, 20% at 25 degrees, 35% at 40 degrees centigrade. When stored at 40% charge level, these figures are reduced to 2%, 4%, 15% at 0, 25 and 40 degrees centigrade respectively.) Every (deep) discharge cycle decreases their capacity. The degradation is sloped such that 100 cycles leave the battery with about 75% to 85% of the original. When used in notebook computers or cellular phones, this rate of deterioration means that after two to three years the battery will have capacities too low to be still usable.

One great advantage of Li ion batteries is their low self-discharge rate of only approximately 5% per month, compared with over 30% per month and 20% per month in nickel metal hydride batteries and nickel cadmium batteries respectively.

Lithium ion internal design is as follows. The anode made from carbon, the cathode is a metal oxide, and the electrolyte is a lithium salt in an organic solvent. Since lithium metal which might be produced under irregular charging conditions is very reactive and might cause explosion, Li-ion cells usually have built-in protective electronics and/or fuses to prevent polarity reversal, over voltage and over-heating.

The Li-Ion battery required nearly 20 years of development before it was safe enough to be used on a mass market level. A unique drawback that we can see to the Li-Ion battery is that its life cycle is dependent upon aging from time of manufacturing (shelf life) regardless if it was charged or not and not on the number of charge/discharge cycles. This drawback is not widely publicized.

Guidelines to prolonging Li ion battery life

A more advanced lithium ion battery design is the lithium polymer cell.