Albert Boufarah on Lithium-ion batteries: their place in the world of electronic waste
Battery varieties are more plentiful than ever nowadays. The most common batteries for use around your home are the rechargeable [Lithium-Ion, Nickel Cadmium, & Nickel Metal Hydride) and the non-rechargeable (Lithium Metal, Alkaline, & Zinc Carbon). The most commonly used batteries in the commercial & industrial realm are Lithium-Ion Nickel Metal Hydride & Lead Acid.
Albert Boufarah, President of SAMR Inc., has observed that there has been a marked increase in popularity for lithium-ion batteries, which can be attributed to lasting a long time, lightweight design, and its noted high energy density. They are commonly found in laptops & m
mobile phones and have seen more use over the years in myriad electronic household appliances
Why are lithium-ion batteries used so frequently in electronic devices?
The two kinds of lithium batteries that show up in electronics are lithium metal & lithium-ion (Li-ion). Boufarah explains that there are distinct differences between them: Li-ion batteries can be recharged (otherwise known as secondary cells) & lithium metal batteries cannot be recharged (they are known as primary cells). The Lithium batteries themselves are assembled in either a prismatic or cylindrical format and often used directly as replacements for standard alkaline battery cells, or they can also be used as assemblies for exacting high-output applications.
What devices can li-ion batteries be found in?
Electronic devices such as tablets, laptops, cameras and smartphones are commonly powered by Lithium-ion batteries. Additional applications include aerospace, power storage and military use, among which are UPS (uninterruptible power supplies) and both industrial & domestic buildings. As of late, li-ion batteries are implemented as a means to replace domestic appliances which are mains-driven: items that range from gardening equipment to vacuum cleaners. Boufarah pointed out as a sign of this continuing trend that one of the most popular appliance manufacturers has announced they have ceased manufacturing mains-driven vacuum cleaners.
Why are only 5% of the world’s lithium-ion batteries recycled?
It is a prevalent belief that li-ion batteries are non hazardous due to the presence of less toxic metals compared to other batteries (which often contain cadmium & lead). However, that does not mean that one should dispose of them with standard household refuse.
Boufarah has surmised that the limitations on recycling of li-ion batteries are due to perceptions about their complexity. The materials in these batteries are widely recycled, and include various cathode materials like cobalt, as well as graphite, plastics, aluminum and copper. But the importance of lithium recycling cannot be stressed enough as it could prevent shortages in the future and relieve pressure on suppliers, keeping prices down.
What NOT to do with old lithium ion batteries?
Boufarah urges caution in the handling of these batteries due to the presence of a flammable electrolyte that can result in fire or even explosions if they are punctured, damaged, or heated. This is why it is of the utmost importance to recycle them instead of disposal amongst flammable household waste.
Li-ion batteries: What is the future uptake?
Evidence from a Research & Markets study indicates that demand for li-ion batteries is experiencing a more rapid pace of growth than other types of batteries. The increased adoption of electronics in every aspect of industry may well have been aided by a decrease in prices along with the increased power density. Further evidence of this trend is shown in estimates indicating that the li-ion battery market will see growth (which was at $37.4 billion in 2018) rise to $92.2 billion by 2024, a CAGR increase of 16.2% between the six years. Further evidence of increased reliance on li-ion batteries is a study from the International Energy Agency stating that by 2030 there will be 125 million electric cars on the road around the world.
While li-ion batteries are useful and efficient, they are not without fault. If mishandled they can produce a thermal reaction. One notable example occurred in 2017, when batteries in a leading electronics brand’s smartphones had significant overheating problems which led to a major recall. In addition, there have been many reports of electric car batteries combustion transpiring after accidents and battery fires inside electric vehicles which cannot be extinguished through conventional methods. Li-ion batteries are subject to swelling, a danger which isn’t often readily present to the naked eye. Swollen li-ion batteries were reported to contribute to the front of another popular smartphone to warp as this occurs.
By following the guidelines for proper recycling and through the use of a company like SAMR Inc., we can enjoy the benefits that lithium-ion batteries provide to us while ensuring their affordability & accessibility along with proper stewardship of the environment for generations to come.