Full Cell Vs. Lithium Ion Battery

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The lithium-ion battery was a revolution in battery technology when it was invented in the 1970s. It replaced the traditional lead batteries that were harmful and difficult to dispose of. The lithium-ion battery has been used in products such as cell phones, computers, toys and other devices. The fuel cell is in development for use in electric-hybrid vehicles. It utilizes a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen to create energy without harmful emissions.

Cost

  • High costs or hydrogen production is the main reason the fuel cell is not widely used. Hydrogen can be produced through electrolysis or steam reformation--methods that are two to three times as costly as producing the same amount of energy from natural gas.

    Lithium-ion batteries are inexpensive to manufacture and are rechargeable, making them more cost-efficient than other portable energy sources.

Sustainability

  • Fuel cells and lithium batteries have minimal environmental impact. The combination of hydrogen and oxygen produce water as an emission, not the harmful greenhouse gasses fossil fuels emit.

    Lithium batteries produce no harmful emissions and are rechargeable hundreds of times. The clean aspect of both lithium-ion batteries and hydrogen fuel cells make them attractive technologies.

Materials

  • The major component of the hydrogen fuel cell is a membrane of polymer that allows an electric charge to be created in combination with hydrogen and oxygen. These membranes must be specially engineered to withstand the intended environment such as high heat and mechanical stresses.

    Lithium is used in batteries because of its high energy density, which allows the batteries to hold a charge. Lithium is lightweight, so the batteries are ideal for use in automobiles.

Potential

  • Hydrogen fuel cells and lithium batteries hold potential for improvements. If the cost of hydrogen production can be minimized, it could become an alternative to petroleum-based energy. Research being performed on the lithium battery is also promising. An increase in the energy capacity and the charge cycles could make the battery a more promising energy source.

Challenges

  • The fuel cell has hurdles to overcome before it is an economical alternative to current fuel sources. The production cost of hydrogen needs to be reduced to be competitive. Accessibility of hydrogen to consumers needs to be addressed. There are few places where hydrogen is readily available to the public (See References 3).

    Along similar lines as the fuel cell, a network of charging stations will need to be developed and implemented if lithium batteries are to be used as a source of automobile energy. Also limited charge capacity is another challenge which must be addressed to make batteries a more powerful and reliable source for portable energy.

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