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September 26, 2014


Electronics & Systems
Nadim Maluf

Did you know that the first battery was invented in 1791 by Volta using alternating zinc and copper plates?

Did you know that the first rechargeable lead-acid battery was invented in 1859?  It remains to date used in automobiles worldwide and is one of the least expensive methods to store electrical energy.

Did you know that the first rechargeable lithium-ion battery was commercially released in 1991 by Sony, nearly one and half century after the invention of the lead acid battery?

Did you know that North American universities graduate lots of electrical and software engineers, but that very few universities have programs to graduate chemists or chemical engineers specialized in batteries? As a result, talented battery experts are hard to find.

Did you know that lithium-ion batteries and lithium-ion polymers refer to the same battery mechanisms, but may differ only in their form factors? Polymer batteries are thin and flat to fit inside a device. They can be made to custom dimensions.

Did you know that lead-acid batteries last a long time if they are kept fully charged, but lithium-ion batteries are much happier if they are left about half-full?

Did you know that present-day lithium-ion batteries are recharged in the same way lead-acid batteries were charged in the 19th century? The charging is called by the mouthful and uninspiring name of “constant-current, constant-voltage.”

Did you know that batteries, and in particular lithium-ion batteries, are completely unhappy if operated at temperatures colder than 10 degrees Celsius and above 40 degrees Celsius? Did you leave your smartphone on your dashboard at noon?

Did you know that when you are told to discharge your lithium-ion battery to zero and charge it back to 100%, it has nothing to do with the battery itself? When you cycle the battery from a total empty to a full charge, all you are doing is recalibrating the fuel gauge (the silicon chip responsible for measuring how much charge you have left in the battery). The cycling does nothing to the battery itself.

Did you know that lithium-ion batteries, unlike the older nickel-cadmium ones, do not suffer from memory effects and cannot be refreshed or refurbished?

Did you know that over 90% of lead-acid batteries in the USA get recycled, yet, and most unfortunately, exhausted lithium-ion batteries end up in your local garbage dump?

Did you know that lithium is fairly abundant in the Earth’s crust (in the form of lithium-salt ores) and you should not worry about running out of lithium in the foreseeable decades?

Did you know that the safety concerns of lithium-ion batteries stem from the reactivity of lithium, in particular with oxygen or water?

Did you know that solid-state batteries, i.e., batteries made of all solid components and manufactured using semiconductor-like processes, do exist and can be purchased commercially, but they suffer from very low charge capacity?

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