A battery is a storage device for electricity that consists of one or more electrochemical cells. These cells can be dry or liquid depending on the characteristics of the battery. The main component of a modern-day battery is Lithium. The charges can be stored in a battery with the help of a chemical reaction. In a battery, there are two electrodes named Cathode and Anode. At the time of charging, the charge moves from one electrode to another. The electrode from which charges leave is called Cathode (positively charged), and the electrode at which the charges get deposited is called Anode (negatively charged).
In this movement the charges are stored in the form of potential energy near the anode. Similarly, power can be withdrawn by the backward movement of charges from anode to cathode. This whole process can be continued in the presence of an electrolyte or conductive media which needs to be refilled at regular intervals, if and when required. Every battery has limited charge retentivity which is relative to the frequency of the battery being charged or discharged. Different companies use different isotopes of Lithium and hence vary in the life cycle retentivity of charges. With the advancement in technology, the charge density to be stored in the battery has increased exceptionally. To see the progress, we have to understand the history of batteries from invention to evolution.
The battery technology has started its evolution from the year 1800, wherein it was the source of producing electricity by chemical reaction. Just like today as we use fuel to run our vehicles and we have to refuel it again, and again. Similarly, in battery, the electrolyte was the fuel. The concept of traditional batteries is completely different from the modern-day application of batteries. They didn’t support charging, once the chemical reaction is completed, the electrolyte and electrodes have to be refilled.
In the year 1748, the term battery was first used, but its usage was completely different. Benjamin Franklin experimented with a bunch of capacitors covered in glass with metal top, on charging these capacitors, they can retain power and discharge took some time. It was the first time in the history of battery that the electricity is stored and with some losses it can be discharged.
By 1800, after series of the experiment followed by Luigi Galvani and Alessandro Volta developed a battery that can store energy but it wasn’t practical due to its non-chargeable nature. They used a combination of Zinc and Copper rods with the brine water used as the electrolyte solution. It was one of its kind in which a single cell can store 1.1 volts of electric current. The combination of these can provide stable electric current but the voltage transmitted was too low due to high internal resistance. This internal resistance was caused by corrosion of Zinc which ultimately was the source of electrochemical reaction. Hence this method has no practical applicability but it had given pathways for future battery technology.
By 1849, Gaston Plantè a french physicist developed the world’s first rechargeable battery. He used lead anode and lead dioxide cathode and an electrolyte that is sulphuric acid. In a chemical reaction, lead from both the rods react with electrolyte and forms lead sulphate. During Discharge, the lead from the anode reacts with sulphuric acid and releases electrons, and in the process, the current releases. While charging the lead from the cathode forms lead sulphate breaks and gets deposited at the anode, which is a reverse reaction and stores energy in the form of potential energy. These batteries were economical with very low internal resistance, and they can run multiple devices from a single cell. Since the batteries were a continuous supplier of stable voltage, and therefore they had been used in running electric vehicles such as the early version of cars. Due to its bulky nature, longer charging time, and limited range, propulsion engines had overtaken the electric vehicle segment.
By mid 20th century, the rise in electronics technological advancement had created a requirement to power small electronic devices. The major concerns were the reliability of the wet battery. They were very heavy with enormous physical limitations. In 1914, Lithium started gaining traction due to its small atomic mass and small size of ions. These ions helped in the diffusion process which made this metal a crucial resource for the advancement of battery technology. The major bottleneck in the usability of this metal was the inability of forming oxides, which makes it useless for the application of cathode or anode. In 1980, an American physicist John B Goodenough discovered Lithium cobalt Dioxide which would be very useful as a cathode, and a Moroccan research scientist Rachid Yasami discovered a Graphite Anode. These discoveries played a very crucial role in a shift from the wet battery to the dry battery. However, the prime concern which had yet to be resolved was finding a solid electrolyte. Two Japanese research scientists Tokyo Yamabe and Shizukuni Yata discovered a solid electrolyte “ polyacene” that troubleshot the prime concern.
The research team of Asahi Chemical, in the year 1985 launched the stable version of the rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery, which later on had been commercialized by Sony Electronics in the year 1991. The Lithium-Ion battery works on Lithium cathode and graphite anode, in between them is a Solid Electrolyte of polyacene. It has to be sealed in a metal box which was small but not very flexible. Therefore Asahi Kasei and Sony electronics in the year 1997 had developed a gel-like polymer that can be utilized in making flexible batteries of different shapes and sizes. The quality of Lithium Polymer is exceptional because its charge enduring capacity remains the same, even at the last cycle count of the battery.
The battery technology has gone through multiple phases of transition, from the electricity-producing device to the electricity storage device. Afterward, it has transitioned from Low power battery to a high-power battery. Then it transitioned from a bulky wet Lead Acid battery to a small dry Lithium-Ion battery. Then it had transitioned from a Small dry Lithium Ion pack to a Flexible dry Lithium Polymer pack. These transitions clearly state and direct the practical applicability of this technology. The earlier versions of Lead Acid Batteries were used to run Vehicles. At the same time, Thomas Edison was working on developing a light battery pack based on the Nickel-Iron combination. By the time his research was completed the propulsion engine was invented and dominated the Vehicle industry. As we move forward, and with the advancement in battery technology the Vehicle Industry is again redirecting itself to a battery-powered source. The new technology of battery is developing across graphene which is a substitute for graphite but has enormous potential of being utilized as the sole driver of battery technology. Battery-powered E-vehicles are going to dominate the mobility industry and everyone needs to be ready for the change.