Lithium technologies

Work package: Lithium technologies


Lithium is a chemical element atomic number 3. It is made of 3 protons and electrons and 4 neutrons. Even though it is the least reactive alkaline metal it is easily oxidized to lithium hydroxide when exposed to water. It is unstable in air due to reaction with oxygen. Because of its high reactivity it has to be stored in water and oxygen-free atmosphere. Lithium is the only metal that reacts with nitrogen under normal conditions forming nitride. Usually lithium is being mentioned as one of the elements forming inorganic salts such as LiF, LiCl, LiBr, LiI. A well known lithium compund is LiBH4, which is commonly used in organic synthesis. Lithium can form chemical bond with carbon resulting in very strong nucleophilicty and basicity of this compounds. Lithium compounds can be found in many industrial applications such as optics, air purification, millitary and nuclear industry. In recent years a lot of effort has been done in development of lithium batteries, which could make a big impact on electrification of automobile industry.

Rechargeable batteries are an effective means of autonomous power supply. Recently, the significance of the concept has begun increasing dramatically, as evidenced in the gradual transition from using rechargeable batteries in small devices (toys, cameras, mobile telephones, laptops) to using them in much larger consumers: most car manufacturers already have plans for making not only hybrid cars, but also completely electrically-driven cars.

There are two ways to create an electric drive:
a) using large car batteries
b) using hydrogen technology (fuel cells), which again involves using car batteries and supercapacitors (e.g. based on lithium technology).
In other words: an electric drive cannot exist without battery-capacitor assemblies. This also applies to certain stationary systems.  

Of all the battery systems for general use in autonomous systems, lithium technologies show the most promise. Lithium systems have the highest energy density by far, no memory effect and a low self-discharge rate. However, in order to become suitable for use in electric motors, their energy density and safety of operation will have to be increased and their price reduced.

Scheme of the activities within the Lithium technologies work package

In addition to battery assemblies, an autonomous power supply also needs capacitor systems able to quickly store any excess power (e.g. the power generated when the car brakes). The so-called supercapacitors are the most promising capacitor systems since they store energy electrochemically – at the solid-liquid phase boundary. Supercapacitors can also be made using lithium technologies. Recently, there have been several inventions that essentially combine the battery and supercapacitor principle: the same device is used as both a capacitor (to store energy quickly) and a battery storing the capacitor energy for a longer time period (in a bulk material). Modern principles such as this are also a subject of this work package.
As mentioned in the introduction, the electricity for charging the batteries will come from solar energy in the long-term. Our focus at the CoE is on developing Grätzel cells, which will supposedly surpass the existing silicon technologies in the next generation of devices. Alternatively, we propose the use of solar thermal energy.

The activities of our partners, the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, TEŠ and HSE, represent a cross-section of the two packages (Lithium and Hydrogen technologies). They participate in a horizontal demonstration project that will show an alternative way to meet energy needs: use the energy from the existing Slovenian power plants to meet the needs for electricity and hydrogen in the two main work packages.

The RRP within the framework of the Lithium technologies work package:

RRP 1: Sol-gel functionalised ionic liquids
RRP 2: Multifunction spectrally selective coatings
RRP 3: The influence of nanoarchitecture on the operation of composite electrodes
RRP 4: An increased energy density lithium battery
RRP 5: Lithium hybrid battery-supercapacitor devices
RRP 6: Making a demonstration prototype of a combined autonomous device – rechargeable battery/solar cell.
RRP 7: Making a prototype flexible solar cell
RRP 8: Graphene research for lithium technologies
kemijski inštitut institut jožefa stefana univerza v novi gorici domel, d.d. inea d.o.o. razvojni center za vodikove tehnologije - rcvt mebius d.o.o. termoelektrarna šoštanj holding slovenskih elektrarn, d.o.o. petrol d.d. silkem, d.o.o. fakulteta za strojništvo, univerza v ljubljani iskra tela d.d. cinkarna celje, d.d. Ljubljanska univerza Image Map